Russia has overtaken China as the fifth-biggest sovereign holder of gold, allowing it to diversify its foreign currency holdings amid a deepening rift with the U.S.
The Bank of Russia in January increased its holdings by almost 20 metric tons to 1,857 tons, topping the People’s Bank of China’s reported 1,843 tons. While Russia has increased its holdings every month since March 2015, China last reported buying gold in October 2016.
Only three countries in the top 10 have increased their holdings materially in recent years, with Turkey being the third. The U.S. is still the largest owner of gold, with 8,134 tons, much of it stored in Fort Knox. Germany is the second-largest, with 3,374 tons, and the International Monetary Fund owns 2,814 tons.
Gold offers Russia independence from the dollar amid financial sanctions from the U.S. and its allies. The measures were imposed in 2014 as punishment for Russia’s involvement in Ukraine and could be tightened in future. Much of the country’s gold purchases come from local production — Russia is the world’s third-largest miner of the metal, according to research firm Metals Focus.