Russia increased its gold holdings for a ninth month, International Monetary Fund data show.
Russia, with the fifth-biggest hoard, held 38.8 million ounces last month, the most in at least two decades, data on the IMF’s website showed.
Central banks globally are adding gold to reserves after reducing holdings for about two decades from the late 1980s as they seek to diversify assets, according to Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. Worldwide purchases would probably be 400 tons to 500 tons in 2014, the World Gold Council said in November. Gold rose for the first time in four months in December as signs of slowing economic growth spurred haven demand.
“Central-bank purchases may have lent some support to gold prices in the past, but it is likely short-lived,” said Barnabas Gan, an economist at OCBC in Singapore. “The most important point for gold is that speculative demand will likely stay tepid in 2015 given that a firmer dollar, higher interest-rate environment and a rosier U.S. economy will depress safe-haven demand,” he said by e-mail.
Gold for immediate delivery, which advanced 1.5 percent in December, traded at $1,292.55 an ounce at 4:41 p.m. in New York, according to Bloomberg generic pricing. The metal rose 9.1 percent this year as a slump in commodity costs raised speculation that the Federal Reserve may hold back from increasing interest rates.
Russia has more than tripled its holdings since 2005 even as it used its international reserves to defend the ruble, which slid almost 50 percent in the past 12 months. Russia’s foreign-currency credit rating was cut to junk by Standard & Poor’s, putting it below investment grade for the first time in a decade, as policy makers struggle to boost growth amid international sanctions and plunging oil prices.
(An earlier version of this story was corrected to show that the Netherlands’ holding was unchanged in December.)