China’s gold hoard swells

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Central banks are going after gold in 2019, boosting holdings as economic growth slows, trade and geopolitical tensions rise, and some authorities seek to diversify their reserves away from the dollar.

The People’s Bank of China said Monday it raised reserves for a seventh month in June, adding 10.3 tons, following the inflow of almost 74 tons in the six months through May. Last week, Poland said it more than doubled its gold assets over this year and last, becoming the top holder in central Europe.

“Aside from its attempt to diversify its holdings of dollars, owning more gold reserves is also an important strategy in China’s rise as a superpower”

Howie Lee, economist at Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp.

Bullion has rallied to a six-year high in 2019 as investors bet on rate cuts by the Federal Reserve, although robust jobs figures on Friday clouded that view. Gold purchases by central banks are adding to overall demand, with Russian authorities a substantial and sustained buyer of the traditional haven.

“Aside from its attempt to diversify its holdings of dollars, owning more gold reserves is also an important strategy in China’s rise as a superpower,” Howie Lee, an economist at Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. in Singapore, said in an email. Additions are likely to continue in coming months, according to Lee.

Last year, central banks bought 651.5 tons, 74% up on the previous year, the World Gold Councilsaid in January. Official sector purchases could reach 700 tons this year, assuming the China trend continues and Russia at least matches 2018 volumes of about 275 tons, Citigroup Inc. said in April. Buying from central banks in the first five months of this year is 73% higher than a year earlier, with Turkey and Kazakhstan joining China and Russia as the four biggest buyers, according to data released on Monday by the WGC.

China’s recent bullion accumulation, as well as that by other central banks, has come against a backdrop of firming prices. Spot bullion traded 0.4% higher at $1,404.82 an ounce on Monday after climbing 9.1% in the second quarter.

This compares with gold’s peer of silver gaining just 1.3% over the same period, resulting in the ratio between the two metals increasing to more than 93, the widest since 1992. Central bank support for gold has been a key driver in the diverging fortunes of gold and silver, according to Ole Hansen, head of commodity strategy at Saxo Bank A/S.

The news on Poland’s increased haul last month included reference to half of its deposits being transferred to the eastern European nation from the Bank of England. This move “is likely due to the rapid increase in its holdings and the intent to build a reserve for the long term,” Hansen said, adding this reduced the need to keep its gold in the trading-market hub offered by London.

(By Ranjeetha Pakiam and Rupert Rowling)

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