Do Asian Central Banks Hold Enough Gold?

The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) noted in its June 2012 Quarterly Review that "central bank balance sheets in emerging Asia expanded rapidly over the past decade because of the unprecedented rise in foreign reserve assets".

Reserves rose from $1.1 trillion to $6.4 trillion in 2011.

Most of these nations hold a low proportion of gold in their reserves, while they are among the countries with the highest personal gold use, at least when compared with local GDP.

This may seem counterintuitive, but it is a result of history; long-standing industrialized nations were on the gold standard in parts of the 19th and 20th centuries and their central banks are still heavy with the metal while their populations have a variety of outlets for disposable income.

At current prices, for example, world official sector gold holdings, based on the figures reported by the IMF (these figures are for end-March, the latest available comprehensive numbers), represent 14 percent of gold+foreign exchange.

China's holdings are just 1.7 percent, and Indonesia's gold accounts for 2.4 percent of total. France, by contrast, holds 84 percent of its reserves in gold and Spain, 34 percent.

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