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Which Countries Own the Most Gold?

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Which countries have the biggest gold reserves?

Central banks globally have been increasing gold holdings over the last few years. Central bank demand came in at 650.3 tons last year. That was the second-highest level of annual purchases for 50 years, just slightly below the 2018 net purchases of 656.2 tons. According to the World Gold Council, 2018 marked the highest level of annual net central bank gold purchases since the suspension of dollar convertibility into gold in 1971, and the second-highest annual total on record.

The pace of central bank gold buying has slowed a bit this year, but continues at a healthy pace. Turkey has been the biggest purchaser of gold in 2020. India has also aggressively increased its reserves. In fact, the Reserve Bank of India is reportedly considering an even bigger boost to its gold holdings.

Central banks pivoted from being net sellers of gold to net buyers in 2010. According to the World Gold Council, central banks bought 5,019 tons of gold from 2010 to 2019. That more than offsets the 4,426 tons of gold sold by central banks between 2000 to 2009.

Here are the 10 countries with the largest gold reserves.

1. The USA – The US holds 8,133.5 tons of gold. The yellow metal makes up 79% of its total monetary reserves.

2. Germany – Germany owns 3,363.6 tons of gold totaling 75.6% of its monetary reserves. In 2017, Germany completed the repatriation of 674 tons of gold, bringing it back into the country from vaults in France and the US.

3. Italy – Italy holds 2,451.8 tons of gold making up 71.3% of its total monetary reserves. The Italians have held their gold reserves steady for a number of years.

4. France – French gold reserves total 2,436.0 tons. That makes up 65.5% of its total monetary reserves. The French central bank has sold small amounts of gold over the years. There is some support for a freeze on the future sale of the country’s gold.

5. Russia – Russian reserves total 2,299.9 tons making up 23% of its total monetary reserves. The Russian central bank led the world in gold purchases for seven straight years and overtook China in the fifth spot in 2018. To pay for its gold, the Russians sold off a significant amount of US Treasuries. In April, the Central Bank of Russia announced it would halt gold purchases for the time being.

6. China – Officially, the Chinese hold 1,948.3 tons of gold representing 3.4% of its total monetary reserves. The People’s Bank of China has not reported any gold purchases over the last nine months. It’s not uncommon for China to go silent and then suddenly announce a large increase in reserves. Many analysts believe 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).

7. Switzerland – The Swiss hold 1,040 tons of gold making up 6.5% of its monetary reserves. Switzerland holds the largest gold reserves in the world per capita.

8. Japan – Japan’s gold reserves total 756.2 tons, making up 3.2% of its monetary reserves. Japanese reserves are low given that it has the third-largest economy in the world.

9. India – The Reserve Bank of India holds 657.7 tons of gold, making up 7.5% of its monetary reserves. As already mentioned, the RBI has significantly increased gold hoard over the last couple of years and recently took over the ninth spot from the Netherlands.

10. The Netherlands – The Dutch only hold 612.5 tons of gold but it makes up 71.4% of the country’s monetary reserves.

The World Gold Council says it expects central bank demand for gold to continue in the near-term.

As we noted in our Q1 2020 Gold Demand Trends report, the case for central banks holding gold remains strong. Especially considering the economic uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The WGC 2020 Central Bank Survey found that 20% of central banks globally plan to expand their gold holdings in the next 12 months.

Factors related to the economic environment – such as negative interest rates – were overwhelming drivers of these planned purchases. This was supported by gold’s role as a safe haven in times of crisis, as well as its lack of default risk.”

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