Central Banks and other institutions

6 February, 2018

Eighth consecutive year of central bank net purchases, marginally down on 2016

  • Central bank net purchases totalled 371t in 2017, 5% lower than 2016 demand
  • Q4’s 38% y-o-y decline was entirely driven by the lapse of sizeable Venezuelan swap
  • Russian gold reserves increased 224t – the third consecutive year of +200t growth
Tonnes 2016 2017 YoY
Central banks & others 389.8 371.4 -5%

Central banks continued to bolster gold reserves in 2017. Total global gold reserves increased by 73.1t in Q4, bringing full-year net purchases to 371.4t (-5% y-o-y). The 38% y-o-y decline in demand in Q4 was entirely driven by Venezuela’s swap deal lapsing. The agreement with Deutsche Bank was valued at US$1.7bn, which represents approximately 45 tonnes of gold.1 The transaction lapsed in October and is accounted for as a sale in our Q4 figures.


Russia's official gold holdings grew to almost 18% of total reserves in 2017

GDT FY 2017 Central Banks - Chart: Russia's official gold holdings grew to almost 18% of total reserves in 2017

Source: IMF IFS; ICE Benchmark Administration; World Gold Council

Data as of

Growth in global gold reserves continued to be dominated by a small number of large purchasers.2 Russian net gold purchases in 2017 hit 223.5t, lifting gold reserves to 1,838.8t (+14%) by the end of the year. This marks the 11th year of growth in their gold reserves, and the third consecutive year in which net purchases topped 200t. Gold now accounts for almost 18% of total reserves. Sergey Shvetsov, First Deputy Chairman of the Russian central bank, stated that this growth in gold reserves is a directive by the Russia authorities, who see it as a key asset in the face of geopolitical uncertainty.

The most notable purchaser of the year was Turkey. The central bank began buying with gusto: reserves increased by an average of 11t per month from May.3 By the end of 2017, gold reserves had increased by 86t to over 200t. As we noted in our Q2 report, the decision to make regular purchases of gold was strategic and in line with Turkey’s view that gold is a key reserve asset.4

Kazakhstan remained committed to increasing their gold reserves. The central bank bought a net 11.6t in Q4, taking total net purchases for the year to 42.9t. This brings Kazakhstan’s gold reserves to just over 300t, 40% of total reserves, at the end of 2017. Other noteworthy purchasers during the year were: Colombia (4.6t), Venezuela (4.4t), Indonesia (2.5t), Jordan (2.2t), Kyrgyz Republic (1.8t), Thailand (1.6t) and Mongolia (1.3t).

Notwithstanding Venezuela’s lapsed swap, significant net sales were limited in 2017. Most countries left their gold reserves relatively untouched during the year. Germany was the only significant seller throughout the year, using 4.3t of gold reserves for its coin-minting programme.


  1. For the compilation of our central bank demand statistics, we have assumed the swap represents 45t.

  2. All country-level data is taken from the IMF's International Financial Statistics (IFS), February 2018 edition.

  3. Excluding commercial bank gold holdings held at the central bank as part of the reserve option mechanism.

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