Central banks added a net of 39.8 tons of gold in May, according to the latest data from the World Gold Council. May purchases maintained the pace we’ve seen through the first four months of the year and was slightly above the four-month average of 35 tons.
Central bank demand came in at 650.3 tons last year. That was the second-highest level of annual purchases for 50 years, just slightly below the 2018 net purchases of 656.2 tons. According to the WGC, 2018 marked the highest level of annual net central bank gold purchases since the suspension of dollar convertibility into gold in 1971, and the second-highest annual total on record.
The World Gold Council bases its data on information submitted to the International Monetary Fund.
Continuing a trend we’ve seen throughout 2020, Turkey drove central bank gold-buying in May, adding 36.8 tons. That brings its total reserves to roughly 561 tons. The Turkish lira dropped to all-time lows in early May. Analysts told CNBC that rapidly shrinking foreign reserves, inflation and currency devaluation are showing no signs of abating. The Turkish central bank is frantically trying to backstop its currency.
Russia bought a half-ton of gold in May. In March, the Central Bank of Russia announced a plan to suspend gold-purchases for the time being, effective April 1.
Many analysts believe China holds far more gold than it officially reveals. As Jim Rickards pointed out on Mises Daily back in 2015, many people speculate that China keeps several thousand tons of gold “off the books” in a separate entity called the State Administration for Foreign Exchange (SAFE).
The World Gold Council says it expects central bank demand for gold to continue in the near-term.
As we noted in our Q1 2020 Gold Demand Trends report, the case for central banks holding gold remains strong. Especially considering the economic uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The WGC 2020 Central Bank Survey found that 20% of central banks globally plan to expand their gold holdings in the next 12 months.