Gold Demand Trends Q1 2018

Published 3rd May 2018

Central Banks and other institutions

Central bank demand was up 42% y-o-y, the highest first quarter since 2014

  • Central bank net purchases totalled 116.5t in Q1, 42% higher than the previous year
  • Russia, Turkey and Kazakhstan together bought 91t (net) in Q1 
  • Sales were again negligible: Qatar was the biggest seller, cutting reserves by 3.1t.
Tonnes Q1'17 Q1'18 YoY
Central banks & others 82.2 116.5 42%

Net central bank purchases totalled 116.5t in Q1, 42% higher y-o-y and the highest Q1 total since 2014. Since becoming net buyers in 2010, central banks have bought – on average – 114.9t per quarter. Net purchases have become more concentrated since the 2013 peak: Russia, Turkey and Kazakhstan collectively account for nearly 50% of net purchases over the last five years.1

Central banks added 116t to reserves, matching long-term average purchases

*Quarterly average between Q1'10-Q4'17.
Source: Metals Focus; GFMS Thomson Reuters; World Gold Council

Russia continues to be the most prolific purchaser of gold, adding 41.7t in Q1.2 Russian gold reserves have grown to 1,890.8t since the start of the year, now accounting for 18% of total reserves. The Central Bank of Russia has purchased gold for 38 consecutive months, accumulating 683.1t in that time. This commitment to growing gold reserves – a directive by authorities3 – shows no signs of abating and reinforces the view of gold as a strategic asset.

Turkey was again the second largest net buyer. Gold reserves – excluding those held as part of the Reserve Option Mechanism – grew by 29.8t in Q1, to reach 231.9t.  Since the central bank began purchasing gold in May 2017 holdings have almost doubled, increasing by an average of 10.5t per month.

Kazakhstan has been a steadfast buyer since Q3 2012. This unbroken run of monthly net purchases continued in Q1: gold reserves grew by 9.1t to 310.1t. Since October 2012, gold holdings have increased by over 200t (+198%). Colombia and Kyrgyz Republic also increased their gold reserves during Q1, adding 2.5t and 1t respectively.

Over recent quarters, some central banks have used gold holdings to enhance overall portfolio returns. Central banks may choose to do this via active trading of their gold holdings (e.g. Jordan) or through swaps (as in Argentina). These examples highlight the role thatgold can – and does – play, beyond diversification.

Notable net sellers were again few and far between. Germany continued to marginally reduce its gold reserves by 1.4t in accordance with its coin-minting programme. Qatar and Ukraine also reduced their gold holdings in the first quarter, by 3.1t and 1.2t respectively.4

Footnotes:
  1. The 5-year period captures data from Q2'13 to Q1'18 - the last 20 quarters of data.

  2.  Data only available to end-February at time of publication.

  3. World Gold Council 'Gold Demand Trends Full Year 2017: Central banks and other institutions' February 2018

  4. Country-level gold reserves data are taken from the International Monetary Fund's International Financial Statistics (IFS), May 2018 edition, and other sources where applicable. IFS data are two months in arrears, so holdings are as of March 2018 for most countries, February 2018 or earlier for late reporters. 

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