The 15 Nations That Control the World’s Gold

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10. Netherlands
> Tonnes of gold: 612.5

It may seem surprising that the Netherlands has so much gold considering its small population, but the country is a former colonial power and has a longstanding history as a very wealthy nation. The Netherlands did not sell all the gold provided for by the Central Bank Gold Agreement, and that figure has remained the same 612.5 tonnes of gold since at least 2012.

9. Japan
> Tonnes of gold: 765.2

The Bank of Japan has conducted massive waves of quantitative easing, asset purchases and even negative interest rates for years. It has remained a top holder of gold, and that 765.2 tonnes has been at the same level for years. Before negative rates, Japan had interest rates of almost zero for two decades.

8. Switzerland
> Tonnes of gold: 1,040.0

Switzerland may have created a stir when it devalued the Swiss franc in recent years, but the reality is that its gold reserves have hardly budged from the 1,040.1 tonnes held in 2012. As one of the world’s top private bankers, it seems that Switzerland also must be one of the top owners of gold.

7. Mainland China
> Tonnes of gold: 1,852.5

Mainland China effectively had been dormant for two years, but the nation announced that its gold reserves had increased by just under 10 tonnes in December. This is still quite small in terms of being 2.4% of total reserves, but it was up from 2.3% of total reserves at the end of 2017. China’s currency reserves had fallen by $67 billion in 2018 to $3.1 trillion. While that doesn’t sound active in gold, China’s gold reserves have soared higher from the 1,054.1 tonnes during 2012.

6. Russia
> Tonnes of gold: 2,113.0

The World Gold Council says Russia is “de-dollarizing” its reserves. What further stands out is that Russia now holds more gold than China. The nation bought 274.3 tonnes of gold in 2018 and this was shown to have been funded by selling the bulk of its U.S. Treasuries portfolio. It also was the highest level of annual net purchases on record and marked the fourth consecutive year that Russia had added more than 200 tonnes. Russia’s gold reserves have now increased for 13 consecutive years, growing by 1,726.2 tonnes over the period to total 2,113 tonnes at the end of 2018.

5. France
> Tonnes of gold: 2,436.0

France has been a long-time leader when it comes to reserves in gold. Still, even with European nations being supposed sellers under the Central Bank Gold Agreement, its gold reserves have hardly budged from the 2,435.4 tonnes back in 2012.

4. Italy
> Tonnes of gold: 2,451.8

Despite European nations being gold sellers under the Central Bank Gold Agreement, Italy’s gold reserves have remained steady since at least 2012. It remains a question whether Italy would even dare be a seller of gold, considering that the nation’s banks and debt load keeping back up as problems.

3. International Monetary Fund (IMF)
> Tonnes of gold: 2,814.0

The IMF is not a nation, but it is the third largest holder of gold. This organization includes 189 countries, and its goals are global monetary cooperation, financial stability, facilitating international trade, promoting high employment and sustainable economic growth and reducing global poverty.

2. Germany
> Tonnes of gold: 3,369.7

Germany is the top individual economy in Europe, handily stronger than France, Italy and the United Kingdom. Since 2012, its gold reserves have come down slightly as Germany is supposed to be a gold seller under the Central Bank Gold Agreement. Still, that drop is only from 3,395.5 tonnes back in 2012. It seems unlikely that the world will wake up one day and see that Germany has dumped vast holdings of gold when so many other nations are buying it.

1. United States
> Tonnes of gold: 8,133.5

The United States has now grown into a $20 trillion economy, and the dollar is still considered the world’s reserve currency. That makes it no surprise that the United States would be the largest owner of gold. The 8,133.5 tonnes owned by the nation has remained at the same level for many years.

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Special mention: The SPDR Gold Shares (NYSE: GLD) is the key trust that trades as an exchange traded fund in the United States. The World Gold Council noted that ETFs and similar products saw annual inflows of 68.9 tonnes in 2018, down from inflows of 206.4 tonnes in 2017. If you used a live snapshot on its website of 823.87 tonnes (worth $35 billion), that would have made it the eighth largest holder of gold, just behind Switzerland and ahead of Japan.