National gold reserves in comparison

News Arnulf Hinkel – 09.11.2016

From the second half of the 19th century until well into the 20th century, national gold holdings were used primarily to cover currencies in accordance to the gold standard. Today, central bank gold is the primary national reserve in terms of risk and currency fluctuations of the US-dollar. Basically, a large gold reserve does guarantee a high degree of a nation's independence. At 8,113.5 tons1, the US own the world's largest gold reserve. With 75.8 per cent, this also stands for the lion's share of the nation's total reserve. The total reserve of a country comprises the gold reserve as well as the sum of central bank holdings of foreign currencies and other (gross) claims on non-residents.

The runner-up would be Germany, with gold reserves at 3,376.2 tons, representing nearly 70 per cent of the total reserve. This is followed by Italy with 2,451.8 tons and a gold share of the total reserve of 69.2 per cent and France with 2,435.8 tons of gold, accounting for 66.6 per cent of the total reserve. Of the 100 nations with the largest gold reserves, El Salvador at 1.4 tons and Yemen at 1.6 tons bring up the rear, with gold reserves making only for a small part of the total reserves: 1.7 per cent and 1.2 per cent, respectively. Anyone who now might think that the level of national gold holdings and the proportion of gold in the total reserves correlate would be wrong: China owns a gold reserve of 1,833.5 tons, which represent mere 2.4 per cent of the total Chinese reserve. With a gold reserve/total reserve ratio of just 6.4 per cent, Switzerland holds 1,040 tons of gold, which is enormous compared to the size of the country. Even in countries holding low gold reserves there is no guarantee that gold holdings represent a correspondingly small part of the total reserves: Tajikistan owns only 12.3 tons of gold, accounting for almost 80 per cent of the total national reserve. How large the share of gold in the total reserve of a nation is depends on the individual security strategy and, in many cases, also on the economic situation of a state.

1 All figures used in this article as of October 2016. Source: World Gold Council.

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