China May Boost Gold Reserves Amid Imbalances in Holdings

China may join other emerging countries in boosting gold reserves as the precious metal makes up a smaller share of its foreign-exchange holdings compared with developed economies, said a London-based researcher.

The country hasn’t announced any changes to state gold reserves since authorities in 2009 said holdings totaled 1,054.1 metric tons. While China holds the world’s biggest foreign-exchange reserves, bullion accounts for 1.1 percent of the total, compared with about 70 percent for the U.S. and Germany, the biggest gold holders, World Gold Council data show.

“It is clear that western central banks over time will be reducing their reserves and China and other Asian countries will be increasing,” David Marsh, managing director at the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum, said in a Sept. 11 interview in Beijing. “Gold will become more traded amongst central banks in the next 30 years because there are colossal imbalances in world gold holdings as a percentage of overall asset reserves.”

Central banks, net buyers of gold for 14 straight quarters, helped limit bullion’s losses last year that were the most since 1981 and may increase purchases to as much as 500 tons this year after adding 409 tons last year, the London-based council said Aug. 14. The precious metal rose 3 percent this year as geopolitical tensions boosted demand for a haven.

Bullion for immediate delivery climbed 0.3 percent to $1,237.04 by 10:44 a.m. in Beijing, according to Bloomberg generic pricing. The metal fell 28 percent last year, the biggest annual decline in more than three decades, and is down 36 percent from a record $1,921.17 reached on Sept. 6, 2011.

China’s Hoard

Russia is among nations that added gold to reserves this year, boosting holdings to the highest in at least two decades and surpassing China’s hoard to become the fifth-largest by country, data from the council show.

“I don’t know if China has been boosting their official gold reserves,” said Marsh, who co-founded the group that tracks economic and monetary policies. “But I’d rather think over the past six or seven years the Chinese authorities probably have been adding to their holdings in different ways.”

Foreign-exchange reserves of China, the second-biggest economy, have nearly doubled to $3.99 trillion since April 2009 when the nation last announced changes to bullion holdings, according to State Administration of Foreign Exchange data. Last year the country, also the biggest bullion producer, overtook India as the top gold user after price declines spurred buying.

The U.S. holds 8,133.5 tons of gold in reserves, while Germany keeps 3,384.2 tons and Italy has 2,451.8 tons, World Gold Council data show. Russia keeps 1,105.3 tons, or 9.8 percent of its total holdings, according to the data.

— With assistance by Feiwen Rong, and Glenys Sim

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