Commodities & Metals

The 5 Nations Still Buying Gold for Their Central Banks

It is no secret that gold has been pounded in recent weeks. Forget about the old highs and hopes of gold going above $2,000 per ounce. Now gold bugs have to seriously contend with the possibility that gold could break under $1,000 per ounce.

What has been interesting to see is that a handful of nations are still adding to their gold reserves. After all, gold reserves are viewed as being crucial to actually putting in a real value that aims to support a nation’s currency. The decline in the price of gold has gotten even worse since the end of June, but five central banks were buyers of gold in the first half of 2015. Still, gold bugs need to consider that not all gold additions are created equally.

New data released by the World Gold Council (WGC) shows central bank purchases and holdings for the month of August. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the data and there were really only five nations that added handily to their gold reserves in the first half of 2015. These were China and Russia for the lion’s share, followed by Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Jordan. Turkey had been classified as a net-adder of gold previously due to reserves for its bank sector, but it has been decreasing net gold holdings in 2015.

Be advised that the warning given by the WGC is that major changes made are not always the result of sales or purchases. Also, changes of less than a ton were excluded unless they are part of a larger program. Also, some central banks differ on measuring gold in or out via swaps, as some central banks simply do not comply with the IMF Standard Data Dissemination.

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24/7 Wall St. has added in comparative data showing the population and ranking in the world of each nation, and the 2014 gross domestic product (GDP) on a purchasing power parity calculation from data in the CIA World Factbook.

China
> Population: 1.367 billion (1)
> 2014 GDP: $17.6 trillion (1)

It may seem a surprise that China was on the list of big gold buyers when you consider that the nation has been trying to curb a stock market meltdown. It also is trying to sustain its growth without encouraging more endless borrowing and leverage. Still, China has to maintain large reserves of real assets to keep its currency up.

If you just looked at the monthly changes you would be floored that China added a whopping 604 tons of gold in the month of June. The August data shows total central bank holdings of 1,658.1 tons. The WGC shows that China is ranked sixth in central bank holdings in the world, but that would be fifth if you remove the International Monetary Fund.

A look into the notation reveals China’s big move here appears to be the culmination of multiyear gold buying that had been reported but had not been tabulated. China’s purchase of 604 tons of gold that was announced in June of 2015 actually was shown by the WGC as having taken place over a six-year period from 2009 to 2015. Suddenly, things make more sense.

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Russia
> Population: 142.4 million (10)
> 2014 GDP: $3.56 trillion (7)

If one nation needs to do what it can to bolster its currency, Russia sure fits that bill. After all, it has been under financial pressure since its Crimea invasion. Many of Russia’s penalties are still hurting the nation due to ongoing hostilities over the Ukraine, which even date back to before Crimea was officially reintegrated into Russia.

Russia added gold reserves for its central bank in 2014, and the net additions in the first half of 2015 have been close to 67 tons. That may sound tiny compared to China, but China’s massive gain was actually a multiyear event that was just finally accounted for.

Russia’s central bank official gold holdings were listed as being 1,275 tons. That ranks it as number 7 in the world’s gold holdings, sixth if you do not count the International Monetary Fund. For what it is worth, Russia is a gold producer and most central bank gold acquisitions there actually take place out of that domestic market rather than on the international metals markets.

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Kazakhstan
> Population: 18.15 million (16)
> 2014 GDP: $418.5 billion (43)

Kazakhstan has added gold in the past, and it added close to 14 more tons of gold in the first six months of 2015. That is still less than half of what it added in the second half of 2014, but it is slightly more added gold versus the first half of 2014.

These additions were shown to be via purchases and swaps in Kazakhstan. The nation ranks as the 23rd largest holder of gold by central bank, but Kazakhstan would be ranked the 21st largest central bank holding gold if you account for the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Jordan
> Population: 8.1 million (98)
> 2014 GDP: $79.6 billion (89)

Jordan did not add to its gold holdings in the central bank in the second quarter, but the first three months of 2015 saw 14 tons added so far in 2015. The WGC did not have any special notes about what this was for, but Jordan was also shown be a net acquirer of gold during both halves of 2014.

As of August 2015, Jordan ranked as number 53 with some 33.3 tons of gold. Jordan’s GDP growth has averaged about 3% over the past three years.

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Mongolia
> Population: 2.99 million (139)
> 2014 GDP: $34.76 billion (128)

The nation of Mongolia may be an anomaly on the list of nations adding gold, and frankly it was a question whether the nation should be included in this review. The WGC showed that it added a mere 0.7 tons via trading activity in the month of June. Its gold had fluctuated throughout 2014, also due to trading activity.

What stood out was that June was the one month of gains, with 0.7 tons added — with twice as much “out” or down in the other months combined for 2015. Again, Mongolia may be an anomaly. Still the nation wants to grow its economic clout, after three years of high growth, and Mongolia even has an exchange traded fund tracking it now. Here is another reason that Mongolia may be an anomaly: the WGC has it ranked all the way down at number 93 in central bank holdings with a mere 2.2 tons as of August.

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