Central banks pull most gold in a decade from BIS

Central banks have pulled 635 tonnes of gold from the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) in the past year, the largest withdrawal in more than a decade, the FT reports.

The move, disclosed in the BIS’s annual report, marks a sharp reversal from the previous year when central banks added to deposits of gold at the so-called “bank for central banks” rather than lending it directly to the private sector amid growing concerns over counterparty risk.

Central banks and other official institutions collectively hold about 30,000 tonnes of bullion in their reserves, and many seek to earn an income on their gold by lending it out, just as any other currency.

However, demand to borrow gold has fallen sharply in the past decade, driving interest rates on gold lending to record lows, according to the FT.

Hedging by gold miners, which is typically structured to involve borrowing gold, was traditionally the largest source of demand. But since miners have cut back their hedging programmes to almost zero, the gold lending market, which is mediated by large bullion-dealing banks, has dwindled.

Lending gold for six months earned a rate of 0.1 per cent on Thursday, according to benchmark market assessments published by the London Bullion Market Association.

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