Currency Wars - Russia Officially Adds 19.5 Tonnes of Gold Reserves in October Alone

Published in Market Updates  Precious Metals Update  on 25 November 2011

By Mark O’Byrne


Gold is trading at USD 1,680.50, EUR 1,268.60, GBP 1,084.30, CHF 1,554.30, JPY 130,130 and RUB 53,210 per ounce. 

Gold’s London AM fix this morning was USD 1,676.00, GBP 1,084.02, and EUR 1,263.86 per ounce.

Yesterday's AM fix was USD 1,699.00, GBP 1,094.72, and EUR 1,270.38 per ounce.

Gold is marginally lower in all currencies today. A myriad of financial and economic risks are supporting the yellow metal at these levels.

Market participants continue to be surprised by gold’s continuing weakness and some are even questioning gold’s safe haven status. However, the fundamentals of broad based global physical demand remain very sound as evidenced by the central bank gold buying data today.

Russia bought 19.5 metric tons of gold in October bringing their total gold reserves to 871.1 tons according to IMF data released today.

Belarus increased holdings by 1 ton, Colombia by 1.2 tons, Kazakhstan by 3.2 tons and Mexico by 0.9 ton, the data show. Germany reduced reserves by 4.7 tons and Tajikistan cut reserves by 0.4 ton, the data show.

Thus, Russia, Kazakhstan, Colombia, Belarus and Mexico added a combined 25.7 metric tons of gold to reserves in October, after gold prices corrected from record highs.


Cross Currency Rates including Russian Ruble

While 25.7 tonnes is a lot of physical gold in tonnage term (given very small size of the global physical bullion market) , it is very small in fiat currency terms as at current market prices (gold averaged $1,671.25 last month according to Bloomberg) its value is a meager $1.38 billion. 

Thus, Russia’s purchase of 19.5 tonnes is valued at a tiny $1.05 billion.

Bloomberg reports that Kazakhstan’s assets increased 3.2 tons to 73.6 tons, Colombia’s gained 1.2 tons to 10.4 tons, Belarus expanded assets by 1 ton to 31.9 tons and Mexico added 0.9 ton to take holdings to 106.3 tons, the data show. Germany cut reserves by 4.7 tons to mint commemorative coins and Tajikistan cut 0.4 ton of gold.

Germany’s gold reserves are at 3,396.3 tons, the IMF data show. The country is the second-biggest holder after the U.S., according to the World Gold Council. A Bundesbank spokesman confirmed the sale German gold and said it was done to mint commemorative coins, which is the only reason it sold bullion during the past few years.

Central banks are expanding reserves for the first time in a generation due to unprecedented monetary and systemic risk. 

Purchases may reach 450 tons this year, according to the World Gold Council. Central banks and government institutions officially bought 142 tons last year, IMF data shows.

Astute analysts continue to point out that this is just the officially declared purchases and many central banks and especially the Peoples Bank of China continue to quietly accumulate gold reserves.

Emerging market and or creditor nation central banks have long been diversifying out of U.S. dollars. Now they are equally concerned about the euro and other fiat currencies such as the yen and pound. 


Gold in Euros – 1 Year (Daily)

These central banks, including China and Russia, hold huge U.S. dollar and other fx reserves. Even a small shift to gold will have a major effect on its price. 

Despite the increase in central bank gold reserves, their central banks still only hold some 5% of their reserves in gold.

This percentage will likely increase significantly in the coming months as they continue to diversify their currency reserves.

Even a small portfolio reserve allocation into gold would create a very large increase in demand for gold.

The Russian government is aggressively adding gold bullion to its gold and foreign currency reserves and their gold buying appears to be accelerating.

This trend may continue to accelerate given the increasing tensions between Russia and the U.S. over Syria, the Middle East. Missile defence in Europe and other geopolitical and economic disagreements.

Yesterday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev threatened to target and, if necessary, destroy the U.S. missile defence shield in Europe once it is built (see video below).

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin recently accused the United States of living beyond its means "like a parasite" on the global economy and said dollar dominance is a threat to the financial markets.

Medvedev and Putin knows that a prerequisite for strong economy and powerful country is a strong and internationally respected currency and increasing gold reserves helps to protect the Russian currency from any possible economic turbulence or instability.

In 2007, the Head of External Reserves in the management division of Russia's Central Bank, Maria Gueguina argued that holding gold acts as a buffer against political and economic uncertainty.

In June 2004, the Deputy Chairman of the Russian Central Bank, Oleg Mozhaiskov, told a meeting of the London Bullion Market Association in Moscow that western central banks had been rigging the gold market to the detriment of the developing world.

Mozhaiskov said that "although there are only a few reserve currencies, an appalling lack of discipline is demonstrated by the U.S. dollar. As things stand today, the United States is indebted to the external world to the tune of $3 trillion. This sum actually exceeds the total official currency reserves of all the nations of the world -- including the USA. . . The evolution of the reserve role of the American currency in recent years gives grounds for a pretty pessimistic prognosis. The relationship between the state of the dollar and the value of gold is obvious. In relation to our discussion today, this means that gold continues to have particular monetary attraction in the minds of all prudent financial investors. . . . 

The internal imperfections of the international monetary system (which I spoke about earlier) have already led to a number of regional financial crises and still carry the danger of larger upheavals. Under these conditions, the growing interest of investors in real assets, gold in particular, is more than justified."

Might Russia and China use gold in order to undermine U.S. political and economic dominance?

There is certainly the possibility that they may use gold as a geopolitical weapon against the U.S. and as a way of furthering their growing global political and economic aspirations. 

Putin's endorsement in 2005 of the Russian Central Bank's plans to diversify the Russian reserves out of fiat currencies and debt instruments and into gold bullion was seen by some as as much a political act as an economic one. 

Putin's overt and PR like choreographed endorsement of gold was replete with many interesting and highly unusual photos.

It was the first time in recent years that a head of state of one of the larger and more powerful G8 global players has expressly endorsed its central bank buying gold and probably the first time that a head of state has been photographed many times holding and admiring gold bullion bars.

Importantly, it was central bank buying that broke the back of the anti-gold cartel or the London Gold Pool in the late 1960s early 1970s. This paved the way for the massive bull market of the 1970s.

Putin's calculated gesture may have been the most important statement on gold by a head of state since French President de Gaulle praised gold as the ultimate from of money and wealth: "There can be no other criterion, no other standard than gold. Yes, gold which never changes, which can be shaped into ingots, bars, coins, which has no nationality and which is eternally and universally accepted as the unalterable fiduciary value par excellence."

Some have posited that Putin may have been sending a "shot across the bows" of the U.S. government as De Gaulle was doing some 35 years ago. Putin and many in Russia are increasingly nervous and wary of Washington's increasing military and economic presence in what they have always considered their backyard - Eastern Europe, Eurasia and the Caspian.

Russia, like China and other 'strategic competitors' to the U.S. are aware of the predicament which the U.S. finds itself in. While it is the world's remaining superpower and overwhelmingly superior to all its rivals in military terms, it has a dangerously exposed Achilles' heel in the form of its fiat paper reserve currency, over dependence on Middle Eastern oil, its massive indebtedness and balance of payments issues.

Russia, like China, is now one of the U.S.' creditors and thus has considerable leverage which it has so far chosen not to exercise. Should it do so there would obviously be a marked increase in geopolitical tension and the potential to create real instability in capital markets and even an international monetary crisis.

Given continuing currency debasement by the US and other debtor nations, the simmering currency wars of recent months may soon heat up.  

SILVER 
Silver is trading at $31.16/oz, €23.55/oz and £20.15/oz 

PLATINUM GROUP METALS 
Platinum is trading at $1,527.50/oz, palladium at $569.75/oz and rhodium at $1,575/oz. 

NEWS
(Bloomberg)
Biggest Gold Hoard Ever Bolstering Bullish Bets From Traders

(Reuters)
Gold ticks lower; heads for 2nd straight weekly drop

(Reuters)
Gold profits from bargain hunters, euro gain

(The Guardian)
Medvedev: Russia will deploy deterrent to Nato missile shield – Video

COMMENTARY
(24HGold)
Adrian Douglas: Central Banks are NOT Ordinary Gold Investors

(Business Insider)
RICHARD RUSSELL: The Gold Skyrocketing Phase Still Lies Ahead

(ZeroHedge)
European Bailout Time Of Death: EFSF Cut In Half Due To "Market Conditions"

(ZeroHedge)
Pictures From A Latvian Bank Run As MF Global Commingling Comes To Town

(The Telegraph)
Death of a Currency as Eurogeddon Approaches

(NY Times)
In Nervous Market, Gold Gains Respectability (When was it disreputable?)

 

 

 


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