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December 5, 2023Key Gold Headlines

The Summer of Central Bank Gold Buying Extends Into the Fall

Central banks gobbled up gold over the summer and the buying spree has continued into the fall.

Globally, central banks added another net 42 tons of gold to their reserves in October.

China continues to be the biggest gold purchaser. The People’s Bank of China added another 23 tons of gold to its hoard in October as it expanded its official reserves for the 12th straight month.

Since the beginning of the year, the People’s Bank of China increased its reserves by 204 tons, and it has added 255 tons since it resumed official purchases in November 2022. As of the end of October, China officially held 2,215 tons of gold, making up 4% of its total reserves.

Most people believe the Chinese hold even more gold than that off the books.

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.

The Central Bank of Turkey also made another big gold buy in October, expanding its holdings by 19 tons. Even with big purchases over the last several months, Turkey is still a net seller on the year.

The Turkish central bank sold 160 tons of gold last spring but returned to buying in the third quarter. According to the World Gold Council, the big gold sale earlier this year was a specific response to local market dynamics and didn’t likely reflect a change in the Turkish central bank’s long-term gold strategy. It sold gold into the local market to satisfy demand after the government imposed import quotas in an attempt to improve its current account balance. The country is running a significant trade deficit.

Although the Turkish government reinstated gold import quotas in early August, so far we haven’t seen a repeat of sales into the local market to meet elevated demand.

The National Bank of Poland also continued its recent gold-buying spree, expanding its reserves by another 6 tons. Its gold holdings have now risen by over 100 tons this year.

In 2021, Bank of Poland President Adam Glapiński announced a plan to expand the country’s gold reserves by 100 tons. Now that it’s reached that gold, Glapiński indicated it will continue to add gold to its holdings.

This makes Poland a more credible country, we have a better standing in all ratings, we are a very serious partner and we will continue to buy gold. The dream is to reach 20 percent.”

When he announced the plan to expand its gold reserves, 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.”

Other significant gold buyers in October included:

  • India — 3 tons
  • The Czech Republic — 2 tons
  • The Kyrgyz Republic — 1 ton
  • Qatar — 1 ton

There were two notable gold sellers in October.

The Central Bank of Uzbekistan sold 11 tons of gold during the month. The National Bank of Kazakhstan also continued its recent selling, lowering its reserves by 2 tons.

It is not uncommon for banks that buy from domestic production – such as Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan – to switch between buying and selling.

October’s buying came on the heels of the second-highest third-quarter total of central bank gold buying on record, only coming in behind Q3 2022.

The World Gold Council said it’s “all but certain that central banks are on course for another colossal year of buying,” after a record-setting 2022.

The strength of buying has, to some degree, exceeded our expectations. While we were confident that central banks would remain net purchasers in 2022, we thought it unlikely that it would match last year’s record buying volume. Should buying continue to be strong in Q4, the full-year total could get closer than we anticipated. Nevertheless, the historically high level of buying in Q4 2022 may be difficult to top.”

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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