The 10 Countries Sitting On The Biggest Piles Of Gold

A man touches a 220 kg (485 pounds) gold bar

Photo: Reuters/Nicky Loh

Central banks have been diversifying their foreign reserves to include gold. Global central banks were bought 534.6 metric tons of gold last year.

The World Gold Council reports that official global gold holdings increased to 31,671.4 tonnes as of March.

We pulled the numbers on the 10 biggest official reserves.

Note: CBGA refers to the Central Bank Gold Agreements. The first Agreement (CBGA 1) ran from September 27, 1999 to September 26, 2004.  The second Agreement (CBGA 2) ran from September 27, 2004 to September 26, 2009. The third Agreement (CBGA 3) will run for five years from September 2009.

#10 India

Official gold holdings:
557.7 tonnes

per cent of foreign reserves in gold:
9.9 per cent

The Reserve Bank of India is known to buy IMF gold and considers gold to be a safe investment, but rarely comments on its plans to buy gold. Meanwhile, the government has been trying deter people from purchasing the precious metal. Gold imports are blamed for the nations deficit.

Source: World Gold Council

#9 Netherlands

Official gold holdings:
612.5 tonnes

per cent of foreign reserves in gold:
59.2 per cent.

Back in 1999, the Netherlands announced under the Central Bank Gold Agreement (CB GA1) that it would sell 300 tonnes of gold during the five years, but only managed to sell 235 tonnes.

Under CBGA2 (2004/2005 --'08/'09) it said it would sell a total of 165 tones (which included the 65 tonnes left over from CBGA1), and it announced no sales under CBGA3 (from 2008/2009 -- '13/'14).

Source: World Gold Council

#8 Japan

Official gold holdings:
765.2 tonnes

per cent of foreign reserves in gold:
3.2 per cent

Japan's gold reserves were at just 6 tonnes in 1950, and its central bank registered its first serious jump in gold holdings in 1959, with purchases increasing by 169 tonnes from the previous year.

In 2011, the Bank of Japan sold gold to pump ¥20 trillion into the economy to calm investors after the tsunami and nuclear disaster.

Source: World Gold Council

#7 Russia

Official gold holdings:
969.9 tonnes

per cent of foreign reserves in gold:
9.8 per cent

Russia has been building its gold reserves since 2006 to diversify its Forex reserves, and to help build the ruble as an international reserve currency. In 2012, Russia added around 75 tonnes to its reserve holdings, mostly by purchasing domestically produced gold.

Source: World Gold Council

#6 Switzerland

Official gold holdings:
1,040.1 tonnes

per cent of foreign reserves in gold:
10.5 per cent

In 1997 proposals were announced to sell a portion of the country's gold reserves because they were no longer considered to be 'necessary for monetary policy purposes', according to the World Gold Council.

1,300 tonnes were considered to be surplus gold and the country began selling this in May 2000. 1,170 tonnes were sold under CB GA1, and 130 tones were sold under CBGA2. Switzerland has announced no plans to sell gold under CBGA 3.

Source: World Gold Council

#5 China

Official gold holdings:
1,054.1 tonnes

per cent of foreign reserves in gold:
1.7 per cent

Gold still accounts for a very small per cent of China's $3.2 trillion in foreign exchange reserves, compared with the international average of 10 per cent.

Building up gold reserves will be crucial to China as it moves to internationalize its currency, and hopes to make it a reserve currency, according to the Financial Times.

Source: World Gold Council

#4 France

Official gold holdings:
2,435.4 tonnes

per cent of foreign reserves in gold:
69.2 per cent

France sold 572 tonnes of gold under CBGA 2. And outside of the agreement France transferred about 17 tonnes to the Bank for International Settlements in late 2004 as part purchase of BIS shares. France announced no plans for sales of gold reserves under CBGA 3.

Source: World Gold Council

#3 Italy

Official gold holdings:
2,451.8 tonnes

per cent of foreign reserves in gold:
72.2 per cent

Italy sold no gold under CBGA 1 or 2 and has announced no sales under CBGA3. But in 2011, Italian banks were looking to the Bank of Italy to buy gold and bolster their balance sheets ahead of stress tests.

Source: World Gold Council

#2 Germany

Official gold holdings:
3,391.3 tonnes

per cent of foreign reserves in gold:
72.7 per cent

Germany sold gold under CBGA 1 and 2 for the purposes of minting commemorative gold coins. In the first year of CBGA3 (2008 - 2009), the Bundesbank sold approximately 6 tonnes, and it has sold 4.7 tonnes of gold since September 7, 2011. There haven't been any changes in Germany's gold holding of late, but the Bundesbank announced in January that it was going to repatriate all of its physical reserves at Paris and the New York Fed.

Source: World Gold Council

#1 United States

Official gold holdings:
8,133.5 tonnes

per cent of foreign reserves in gold:
75.6 per cent

The U.S. had its largest gold reserves in volume terms in 1952, when reserves totaled 20,663 tonnes. Holdings first fell below the 10K mark in 1968.

Source: World Gold Council

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