Top 10 Countries with the Largest Gold Reserves

Since 2010, the world's central banks have gone from selling to buying gold. Last year, activity in the official sector rose by 36% to 366 tonnes, a significant increase on 2016.

The list of the ten central banks with the largest gold reserves has remained virtually unchanged in recent years. The United States tops the list with over 8,000 tonnes of gold in its vaults, almost as much as the next three countries combined. For six consecutive years, the Russian Central Bank has been the largest buyer of gold, increasing its reserves by 224 tonnes in 2017 and overtaking China in the process to take fifth place in the ranking, according to GFMS Gold Survey.

Not all central banks are net buyers, however. For the second year running, Venezuela was the biggest seller of gold, with 25 tonnes sold last year to help repay their debt. However, sales by the official sector fell by 55% last year, to their lowest level since 2014, indicating that central banks are keen to conserve their reserves of gold, historically considered a safe haven.

2018 could be another exceptional year in terms of central bank gold demand. According to the World Gold Council (WGC), in the first quarter, demand was up 42% year-on-year, with purchases totaling 116.5 tonnes, the highest first-quarter total since 2014. As global debt continues to soar, central banks and investors may want to hold on to their gold, as it has historically performed well in times of economic slowdown and geopolitical uncertainty.

Below you'll find a list of the ten countries with the largest gold reserves, starting with India.

10. India

Tons: 560.3

Percentage of foreign exchange reserves: 5.5

It's no surprise that India's central bank has one of the world's largest gold reserves. With its 1.25 billion inhabitants, this South Asian country is the second largest consumer of the famous yellow metal, and one of the most stable drivers of global demand. In India, the festival and wedding season from October to December is traditionally a busy time for the gold trade.

9. Netherlands

Tons: 612.5

Percentage of foreign exchange reserves: 68.2

The Dutch Central Bank has announced that it will be moving the vaults that house its gold from Amsterdam to Camp New Amsterdam, about an hour outside the city, citing the heavy security measures imposed by their current location. As many have noted, this move seems odd, given that the bank recently repatriated much of its gold from the United States.

8. Japan

Tons: 765.2

Percentage of foreign exchange reserves: 2.5

Japan, the world's third-largest economy, is also the eighth-largest owner of this precious metal. Its central bank has been one of the most aggressive players in quantitative easing plans - in January 2016, it lowered interest rates below zero - and has helped fuel demand for gold worldwide.

7. Switzerland

Tons: 1,040.0

Percentage of foreign exchange reserves: 5.3

Switzerland comes seventh, with the world's largest gold reserves per capita. During the Second World War, this neutral country became the center of gold trading in Europe, conducting transactions with both the Allies and the Axis powers. Today, much of its gold trade is with Hong Kong and China.

6. China

Tons: 1,842.6

Percentage of foreign exchange reserves: 2.4

In the summer of 2015, and for the first time since 2009, the People's Bank of China began sharing its gold purchasing activities on a monthly basis. Although China ranks sixth in terms of gold held, this figure represents only a small percentage of its overall reserves - just 2.4% - the lowest percentage of the 10 central banks with the most gold. However, this figure is up slightly on 2016's 2.2%.

5. Russia

Tons: 1,909.8

Percentage of foreign exchange reserves: 17.6

For the past six years, the Russian Central Bank has been the largest buyer of gold, and at the beginning of this year, it overtook China to reach fifth place in this ranking. In 2017, Russia bought 224 tonnes of bullion in order to diversify away from the US dollar, as its relations with the West have cooled since the annexation of the Crimean peninsula in mid-2014. To raise the funds for these purchases, Russia has sold a huge percentage of its US holdings.

4. France

Tons: 2,436.0

Percentage of foreign exchange reserves: 63.9

France's central bank has sold little of its gold in recent years, and there are calls for a total halt to such sales. Marine Le Pen, president of the country's far-right Rassemblement National party, has led the charge not only to freeze the country's gold sales, but also to repatriate all reserves stored abroad.

3. Italy

Tons: 2,451.8

Percentage of foreign exchange reserves: 67.9

Italy has also maintained its reserves over the years, and enjoys the support of European Central Bank (ECB) President Mario Draghi. In 2013, when a journalist asked the former governor of the Bank of Italy about the role of gold in a central bank's portfolio, he replied that the metal was "a security reserve," adding that it "offers pretty good protection against fluctuations in the dollar".

2. Germany

Tons: 3,371.0

Percentage of foreign exchange reserves: 70.6

Last year, Germany completed a four-year repatriation operation aimed at repatriating to its own vaults a total of 674 tonnes of gold previously held at the Banque de France and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Announced in 2013, the repatriation is scheduled to end in 2020. Although demand for gold fell last year after peaking in 2016, this European country has seen its gold investments rise steadily since the global financial crisis.

1. United States

Tons: 8,133.5

Percentage of foreign exchange reserves: 75.2

With the world's largest official stocks, the United States claims to own almost as much gold as the next three countries combined. It also has the highest percentage of foreign exchange reserves at over 75%. As far as we know, the majority of American gold is held at Fort Knox in Kentucky, with the rest stored at the Philadelphia Mint, the Denver Mint, the San Francisco Assay Office and the West Point Bullion Depository. Which state loves gold the most? The state of Texas has gone so far as to create its own Texas Bullion Depository to protect investors' gold.

Author: Rédaction GOLDMARKET
GOLDMARKET's editorial team is made up of precious metals experts, journalists and editors with a passion for gold and the wider economy. We also bring in specialist lawyers and experts on technical subjects relating to gold.

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