Bank of Korea Raises Gold Holdings as Central Banks Buy

The Bank of Korea increased gold reserves 20 percent last month to diversify investments, boosting holdings for the fourth time since June 2011 and underscoring increased demand by central banks. Prices gained.

The bank added 14 metric tons in November, bringing the total to 84.4 tons, the bank said in a statement today. By value, holdings increased about $780 million to $3.76 billion, equivalent to 1.2 percent of total reserves, the bank said.

Central banks from Brazil to Kazakhstan have been expanding their gold reserves at a time when investors increased holdings in exchange-traded products to a record to protect against weaker currencies and the potential for faster inflation. Gold is poised for a 12th annual gain as the U.S. Federal Reserve boosts stimulus to buttress the recovery in the world’s largest economy and European policy makers battle the debt crisis.

“Central-bank buying is a solid pillar for gold,” Nick Trevethan, senior commodities strategist at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd., said by phone from Singapore. “It’s not a story that will go away soon.”

Countries bought 373.9 tons in the first nine months of the year, according to the producer-funded World Gold Council, which said in November that full-year additions will probably be at the “bottom end” of a range from 450 to 500 tons. Last year, central banks purchased 456 tons.

‘Physical, Safe’

“Gold is a physical, safe asset,” the Bank of Korea said in the statement. The precious metal “is a way of diversification, which helps reduce investment risk in terms of foreign-exchange reserves management,” it said.

Spot gold gained 0.4 percent to $1,705.04 an ounce at 5:47 p.m. in Singapore, 9 percent higher this year. The price fell to a one-month low of $1,691.40 yesterday, dropping alongside other commodities amid concern that U.S. lawmakers may fail to avert the so-called fiscal cliff of tax rises and spending cuts.

The Bank of Korea bought 16 tons in July, 15 tons in November 2011 a further 25 tons over a one-month period from June to July last year. Kazakhstan, Turkey and Russia boosted gold reserves in October, according to data on the International Monetary Fund’s website, joining Brazil, which raised holdings to the highest in more than 11 years.

Gold prices have been supported by so-called official-sector buying, David Gornall, chairman of the London Bullion Market Association, told a conference in Hong Kong last month. China may add more gold to reserves as the metal accounts for a lower share of total holdings compared with the U.S., he said.

The U.S., Germany and France hold more than 70 percent of their reserves in gold, according to World Gold Council data. The share in China, which has the world’s largest foreign-exchange reserves, is 1.7 percent, the data show.

Investors increased holdings in gold-backed ETPs to an all-time high of 2,627.035 tons yesterday, data compiled by Bloomberg show. That’s equivalent to the fourth-biggest hoard in the world, exceeded by only the U.S., Germany and the IMF, according to World Gold Council data.