Gold Council recently released updated figures on central bank gold purchases
and sales. The table below shows some key month-by-month transactions since
While Turkey appears to have added a
substantial amount of gold, these figures are inflated by a policy of
including in its central bank reserves gold transferred to it by Turkish
commercial banks as part of their reserve and collateral requirements. As a
result these figures do not reflect additional gold purchases by the
Government of Turkey.
The interesting observation from the table is the lack of Western or European
countries. Admittedly many of these have considerable gold holdings
constituting a large proportion of their total reserves. For example, gold
represents over 70% of reserves for the US, Germany, Italy, France and
Greece. For the total Euro Area (including the ECB) gold represents 63.8% of
for all of the countries in the table below (except Belarus and Bolivia) gold
represents less than 15% of their total reserves. Maybe they are
looking to catch up?
omission from the table is China, which many analysts believe has been
accumulating gold - and will continue to. In the last 12 years China has only
reported gold reserve changes twice. Once in late 2001 when it added 105 tonnes and again in mid-2009 when it added 454 tonnes. That last addition was reported as taking place
over a six-year period from 2003 to 2009. China currently holds 1,054 tonnes, which is the 5th largest holdings (if we exclude
the IMF, which is not a country), but this is only 1.7% of its reserves.
Another case of catching up and diversifying its reserves?
The World Gold Council and many others
tend to report central bank gold activities on a net basis – that is,
adding up all the purchases and subtracting the sales. Below is a chart
showing these net movements in the gold holdings across all central banks.
presents a picture of central bank selling up to the financial crisis, with a
switch to buying thereafter, which has been the dominant way this has been
reported by the media. However this understates the extent of purchasing. The
chart below breaks the net figures in the above chart into purchases and
sales (spreading China’s 454t purchase equally over 2003 to 2009).
This chart shows that while selling
has been dominant, there have been canny central banks buying all through
this bull market. If diversifying one’s portfolio is good enough for a