Central bank gold buying in Q3 was modest by recent standards. Net purchases slowed to 69t from 191t in Q2. This contrasts with Q3’20, which was the first quarter of net central banks selling since 2011. Y-t-d buying had reached 393t by the end of Q3, more than double over the comparable period in 2020.
Buying concentrated among a small, familiar group. Q3 central bank activity was not boosted by the large-scale purchases seen during H1. Demand nevertheless remained robust, with moderate levels of buying by several familiar names.
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) was the largest buyer in Q3. Gold reserves grew by 41t to 745t. This marks a slight increase in the pace of buying by the RBI, and 2021 looks set to see the biggest annual increase in India’s official gold reserves since 2009.1
The Central Bank of Brazil added a further 9t in Q3, having been one of the largest buyers in H1. Gold reserves now stand at 130t (+92% y-t-d). Uzbekistan (26t), Kazakhstan (7t), and Russia (6t) were the other major buyers in the quarter. It should be noted that we believe that Russia’s purchases were a likely rebalancing of its gold reserves following a few months of coinage-related sales earlier in the year. The Philippines and Mongolia also increased their gold reserves in Q3, both by just under a tonne.
Poland’s gold reserves were unchanged on a net basis over the quarter. In early October, however, central bank Governor Adam Glapinski indicated that it has initial plans to buy a further 100t of gold in 2022.
Relatively subdued selling completes the picture. Only a few central banks reduced their gold holdings in Q3, with gross sales totalling 27t. Turkey sold 13t during the quarter, as a chunky sale in September outweighed small monthly purchases in July and August. The country continues to face economic challenges, including sustained currency weakness, which has kept local currency prices of gold close to record highs. Qatar (3t) was the only other notable seller.
Central bank demand remains one of the highlights of the gold market so far this year. And despite purchases easing in Q3, we believe that central banks continue to view gold positively. As such, our expectation is for net buying in Q4 to generate full-year purchases broadly in line with the average for the past five years (458t).