A large sale by Turkey in April caused global central bank reserves to fall for the first time in over a year, even as central bank gold buying continued.
Official global reserves dropped by 71 tons in April, according to the latest data collected by the World Gold Council.
While the overall drop in global reserves was significant, it does not reflect an about-face by central banks and doesn’t likely signal a new trend. It was primarily the result of an 81-ton sale by the Central Bank of Turkey.
According to the World Gold Council, the big sale by Turkey was a specific response to local dynamics rather than a change to its long-term gold policy. In fact, strong domestic demand for gold in Turkey coupled with a ban on imports drove the central bank to sell gold into the market.
The gold was sold into Turkey’s domestic market to satisfy very strong bar, coin and jewelry demand following a temporary partial ban on gold bullion imports.”
According to a Reuters report, the Turkish government suspended some gold imports in February in an effort to soften the economic impact of significant earthquakes.
The National Bank of Kazakhstan also reduced its official gold reserves by 13 tons in April, and the Central Bank of Uzbekistan sold 2 tons of gold. These two banks were the biggest sellers of gold during the first quarter of this year. It is not uncommon for banks that buy from domestic production – such as Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan – to switch between buying and selling.
On the other side of the ledger, there were also notable buyers of gold in April.
Poland made the biggest purchase, adding 15 tons of gold to its holdings. It was the largest increase in the country’s reserves since June 2019 when the bank boosted gold holdings by almost 100 tons.
In the fall of 2021, Bank of Poland President Adam Glapiński said the central bank planned to add 100 tons of gold to its reserves in 2022. It’s unclear why the bank didn’t follow through. This recent purchase could signal the beginning of another round of buying to reach that 100-ton goal.
In 2021, Glapiński said holding gold was a matter of financial security and stability.
Gold will retain its value even when someone cuts off the power to the global financial system, destroying traditional assets based on electronic accounting records. Of course, we do not assume that this will happen. But as the saying goes – forewarned is always insured. And the central bank is required to be prepared for even the most unfavorable circumstances. That is why we see a special place for gold in our foreign exchange management process.”
The People’s Bank of China extended its gold buying spree for a sixth-straight month with an 8-ton addition to its official reserves.
Since recommencing reports of purchases in November 2022, the Peoples Bank of China has added 128 tons to its official gold holdings.
The Chinese central bank accumulated 1,448 tons of gold between 2002 and 2019, and then suddenly went silent until it resumed reporting in November 2022. Many speculate that the Chinese continued to add gold to its holdings off the books during those silent years.
There has always been speculation that China holds far more gold than it officially reveals. As Jim Rickards pointed out on Mises Daily back in 2015, many people speculate that China keeps several thousand tons of gold “off the books” in a separate entity called the State Administration for Foreign Exchange (SAFE).
Last year, there were large unreported increases in central bank gold holdings. Central banks that often fail to report purchases include China and Russia. Many analysts believe China is the mystery buyer stockpiling gold to minimize exposure to the dollar.
Other notable buyers include the Czech National Bank (2 tons) and the Central Bank of Mongolia (1 ton).
Despite the dip in overall global reserves in April, it doesn’t appear central banks have lost their appetite for gold. After a record-setting 2022, central banks continued to buy gold in the first quarter of 2023, setting a new Q1 record.
Overall, global central bank gold reserves increased by 228 tons through the first three months of 2023. This was 38% higher than the previous first-quarter record set in 2013.
Total central bank gold buying in 2022 came in at 1,136 tons. It was the highest level of net purchases on record dating back to 1950, including since the suspension of dollar convertibility into gold in 1971. It was the 13th straight year of net central bank gold purchases.
According to the 2023 Central Bank Gold Reserve Survey recently released by the World Gold Council, 24% of central banks plan to add more gold to their reserves in the next 12 months. Seventy-one percent of central banks surveyed believe the overall level of global reserves will increase in the next 12 months. That was a 10-point increase over last year.
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