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Healthy Central Bank Gold Buying Continued in February

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By Mike Maharrey, Money Metals Exchange

 

Central banks continued to add to their gold reserves in February, albeit at a slightly slower pace.

On net, global central bank gold reserves increased by 19 tons in February with some selling pushing down that total. It was the ninth straight month of net central bank gold buying.

China was the biggest buyer in February. The People’s Bank of China increased its official gold holdings by 12 tons. The Chinese central bank has added gold to its hoard for 16 straight months. China officially holds 2,257 tons of gold. The Chinese have added over 300 tons of gold to their reserve since they resumed reporting gold purchases in October 2022. 

The People’s Bank of China added 1,448 tons of gold to its stash between 2002 and 2019, and then suddenly went dark until it resumed reporting in the fall of 2022. There is speculation that the Chinese were still adding gold to their holdings off the books during those silent years.

In fact, China may hold far more gold than it officially reports. As Jim Rickards pointed out on Mises Daily back in 2015, many analysts believe that China keeps several thousand tons of gold “off the books” in a separate entity called the State Administration for Foreign Exchange (SAFE).

The National Bank of Kazakhstan is back in a buying mood. It added 6 tons of gold to its reserves in February. Kazakhstan tends to shift back and forth between buying and selling.

The Reserve Bank of India bought 6 tons in February. Since resuming buying in late 2017, the Indian central bank has purchased over 200 tons of gold. In August 2020, there were reports that the RBI was considering significantly raising its gold reserves.

Turkey continued to add to its reserves in February but at a slower pace. After leading buyers in January with a 12-ton increase in its gold reserves, the Turks added another 4 tons in February. 

Last year, Turkey was a net seller, liquidating 160 tons of gold in the spring of 2023. The central bank returned to buying in the third quarter of last year.

According to the World Gold Council, the big gold sale was a specific response to local market dynamics and didn’t appear to reflect a change in the Turkish central bank’s long-term gold strategy. The Turkish central bank 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.

These central banks also added gold to their reserves in February:

  • Singapore – 2 tons

  • The Czech Republic – 2 tons

  • Qatar – 2 tons

  • Kyrgyz Republic – 1 ton

There were two notable sellers in February. 

Uzbekistan sold 12 tons of gold. It is not uncommon for banks that buy from domestic production – such as Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan – to switch between buying and selling.

The Central Bank of Jordan reduced its gold holdings by 4 tons. 

The World Gold Council noted that sales in 2024 have lagged behind the same period last year, but still described central bank gold buying as “healthy,” adding that “the broad trend of gold buying remains intact.”

Last month, the World Gold Council said the continuation of gold buying supports its expectation that “2024 will be another solid year of central bank gold demand.”

“Last year central banks placed great emphasis on gold’s value in crisis response, diversification attributes, and store-of-value credentials. A few months into 2024 the world seems no less uncertain meaning those reasons for owning gold are as relevant as ever.”

Last year, central bank gold buying fell just 45 tons short of 2022’s multi-decade record.

According to the World Gold Council, central banks net gold purchases totaled 1,037 tons in 2023. It was the second straight year central banks added more than 1,000 tons to their total reserves.

Central bank gold buying in 2023 built on the prior record year. 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.

China was the biggest buyer in 2023.

Analysts at ANZ Bank recently said they expect central bank gold buying to remain hot for at least the next six years. According to these analysts, “Depleted trust in the U.S. fixed-income assets and the rise of non-reserve currencies are other themes that could support central bank gold buying.”



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