Who Holds the Most Gold?

The price of gold has been in consolidation mode for over a year. On Monday, the precious metal logged its third consecutive daily loss and reached its lowest level in five weeks. Gold produces very trying price swings for investors of the safe haven, but central banks are still keeping a tight grip on their holdings.

Central banks became net buyers of gold in 2009 for the first time in decades, with Russia and China leading the way. According to recent IMF data compiled by Bloomberg, Russia’s central bank added 570.1 metric tons of gold to its stash over the past decade, the most of any nation in the world and almost triple the weight of the Statue of Liberty. China and Turkey were the next largest gold accumulators with 454.1 and 243.5 metric tons, respectively.

Evgeny Fedorov, a lawmaker for Vladimir Putin’s Untied Russia party, tells Bloomberg, “The more gold a country has, the more sovereignty it will have if there’s a cataclysm with the dollar, the euro, the pound or any other reserve currency.”

Putin has not been shy about his feelings towards the U.S. dollar and its role in the global financial system. In recent years, he has said the nation is “living like parasites off the global economy and the monopoly of the dollar. Countries like Russia and China hold a significant part of their reserves in American securities…there should be other reserve currencies.”

Who holds the most gold…

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In addition to Russia, many countries hold the precious metal. According to the official gold holdings by the World Gold Council, the United States holds the most at 8,133.5 tonnes, representing 75.7 percent of reserves. A large portion of this gold is held at Fort Knox in Kentucky and the West Point depository in New York. The U.S. has possession of even more gold via the Federal Reserve, but it technically belongs to other nations. Germany has nearly 3,400 tonnes, the second highest total in the world and representing 72.8 percent of its reserves.

The top 10 gold holders are listed below, along with the percentage of reserves:

  1. United States: 8,133.5 tonnes, 75.7 percent
  2. Germany: 3,391.3 tonnes, 72.8 percent
  3. IMF: 2,814 tonnes
  4. Italy: 2,451.8 tonnes, 72.1 percent
  5. France: 2,435.4 tonnes, 70.5 percent
  6. China: 1,054.1 tonnes, 1.7 percent
  7. Switzerland: 1,040.1 tonnes, 10.6 percent
  8. Russia: 957.8 tonnes, 9.5 percent
  9. Japan: 765.2 tonnes, 3.2 percent
  10. Netherlands: 612.5 tonnes, 59.7 percent

According to data from the Census and Statistics Department of the Hong Kong government, gold imports into mainland China from Hong Kong nearly doubled to an all-time high last year. China, the world’s second-largest economy, imported a record 834,502 kilograms (834.5 metric tons), including scrap and coins, in 2012. In comparison, the nation only imported 431,215 (431.2 metric tons) kilograms the previous year.

Chinese imports in December increased to a fresh monthly record of 114,405 kilograms, compared to 90,764 kilograms in November and 38,650 kilograms in the same period a year earlier. It should also be noted that the imports only represent private demand and does not account for official sector Chinese purchases.

Although the People’s Bank of China has not officially disclosed any changes to its gold holdings in years, it is widely believed that the central bank is purchasing gold to diversify its reserve holdings. The next time China reveals its official gold holdings, it could easily be in the 2,000 to 3,000 tonne range.

Investor Insight: How Cash-Strapped are Americans?

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Disclosure: Long EXK, AG, HL, PHYS