24/7 Wall St. looked at the latest report from the World Gold Council and it is now more obvious than ever that gold is becoming the new global reserve currency. Continuous and aggressive central bank actions from the United States and Europe are driving the demand for gold. Investors have not yet seen any of the real hyperinflationary pressures that seem likely down the road.
Gold’s substantial rise in price should speak for itself. In dollar terms, gold returned 11.1% in the third quarter and was up by 16% year to date through the end of the quarter. The World Gold Council said that gold has a low stock market correlation through time. That was not the case in the third quarter. Gold still outperformed almost all the major equity markets in the largest gold-holding nations in 2012.
24/7 Wall St. analyzed how the gold rankings compare to each major nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) and how those figures compare to the top 10 holders of gold. What is surprising in some cases is how countries with the largest GDP are not necessarily the largest holders of gold. Two small nations, the Netherlands and Switzerland, are major holders of gold. Under the terms of the Central Bank Gold Agreement among major European states, many countries are supposed to be selling gold but are not.
The United Kingdom’s $2.43 trillion in GDP is the world’s seventh largest, but its gold holdings of 310.3 tonnes rank only 17th in the world and account for only 15.9% of its total foreign reserves. Does the old term “pound sterling” mean that the British banks really care more about silver? Another standout exception is Brazil, which has tiny gold reserves compared to its GDP. Its $2.5 trillion in GDP ranks sixth in the world, yet it holds only 33.6 tonnes of gold, or 0.5% of foreign reserves. Brazil ranks a surprising 52nd in the world among gold holders.
The International Monetary Fund is the third-largest official holder of gold, with more than 2,814 tonnes. The European Central Bank ranks right behind India, with 502.1 tonnes and 32.3% of its total foreign reserves held in gold. Central bank buying of gold was recently undertaken by Russia, Turkey, Ukraine and the Kyrgyz Republic. Turkey went as far as raising the gold reserve requirements for its commercial banks.
The World Gold Council report shows low borrowing costs and the support of financial markets spur gold accumulation. Gold is no longer just an inflation hedge; it is the key protection against a global race to devalue currencies, even if consumer prices are somewhat stable. Bonds pay historically low rates and stock market volatility has spooked many investors, so gold is becoming the true safe haven.
Major central banks are growing their balance sheets by purchasing trillions of dollars in paper assets. The World Gold Council said that research showed that a 1% change in money supply, six months prior, in the United States, Europe, India and Turkey tends to increase the price of gold by 0.9%, 0.5%, 0.7% and 0.05%, respectively. The Council also said that inflation is still several years off and many central banks have been more worried about deflation. Investors would be well advised to heed a warning from bond king Bill Gross, who told global investors to have exposure to hard assets, which will rise in value with inflation.
24/7 Wall St. has listed the 10 nations with the largest gold reserves, along with the percentage of total foreign reserves held in gold, each nation’s 2011 GDP and how it ranks in the world, and the local stock market performance. We have added analysis about how the potential unraveling of the euro could play into the future buying or selling of gold by European nations. For nations outside Europe, we have provided some historical context and predicted the path that their central banks are likely to follow in the years ahead.