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Charted: 30 Years of Central Bank Gold Demand

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central bank gold demand over 30 years

30 Years of Central Bank Gold Demand

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Did you know that nearly one-fifth of all the gold ever mined is held by central banks?

Besides investors and jewelry consumers, central banks are a major source of gold demand. In fact, in 2022, central banks snapped up gold at the fastest pace since 1967.

However, the record gold purchases of 2022 are in stark contrast to the 1990s and early 2000s, when central banks were net sellers of gold.

The above infographic uses data from the World Gold Council to show 30 years of central bank gold demand, highlighting how official attitudes toward gold have changed in the last 30 years.

Why Do Central Banks Buy Gold?

Gold plays an important role in the financial reserves of numerous nations. Here are three of the reasons why central banks hold gold:

  • Balancing foreign exchange reserves
    Central banks have long held gold as part of their reserves to manage risk from currency holdings and to promote stability during economic turmoil.
  • Hedging against fiat currencies
    Gold offers a hedge against the eroding purchasing power of currencies (mainly the U.S. dollar) due to inflation.
  • Diversifying portfolios
    Gold has an inverse correlation with the U.S. dollar. When the dollar falls in value, gold prices tend to rise, protecting central banks from volatility.
  • The Switch from Selling to Buying

    In the 1990s and early 2000s, central banks were net sellers of gold.

    There were several reasons behind the selling, including good macroeconomic conditions and a downward trend in gold prices. Due to strong economic growth, gold’s safe-haven properties were less valuable, and low returns made it unattractive as an investment.

    Central bank attitudes toward gold started changing following the 1997 Asian financial crisis and then later, the 2007–08 financial crisis. Since 2010, central banks have been net buyers of gold on an annual basis.

    Here’s a look at the 10 largest official buyers of gold from the end of 1999 to end of 2021:

    Rank CountryAmount of
    Gold Bought (tonnes)
    % of
    All Buying
    #1🇷🇺 Russia 1,88828%
    #2🇨🇳 China 1,55223%
    #3🇹🇷 Türkiye 5418%
    #4🇮🇳 India 3956%
    #5🇰🇿 Kazakhstan 3455%
    #6🇺🇿 Uzbekistan 3115%
    #7🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia 1803%
    #8🇹🇭 Thailand 1682%
    #9🇵🇱 Poland1282%
    #10🇲🇽 Mexico 1152%
    Total5,62384%

    Source: IMF

    The top 10 official buyers of gold between end-1999 and end-2021 represent 84% of all the gold bought by central banks during this period.

    Russia and China—arguably the United States’ top geopolitical rivals—have been the largest gold buyers over the last two decades. Russia, in particular, accelerated its gold purchases after being hit by Western sanctions following its annexation of Crimea in 2014.

    Interestingly, the majority of nations on the above list are emerging economies. These countries have likely been stockpiling gold to hedge against financial and geopolitical risks affecting currencies, primarily the U.S. dollar.

    Meanwhile, European nations including Switzerland, France, Netherlands, and the UK were the largest sellers of gold between 1999 and 2021, under the Central Bank Gold Agreement (CBGA) framework.

    Which Central Banks Bought Gold in 2022?

    In 2022, central banks bought a record 1,136 tonnes of gold, worth around $70 billion.

    Country2022 Gold Purchases (tonnes)% of Total
    🇹🇷 Türkiye14813%
    🇨🇳 China 625%
    🇪🇬 Egypt 474%
    🇶🇦 Qatar333%
    🇮🇶 Iraq 343%
    🇮🇳 India 333%
    🇦🇪 UAE 252%
    🇰🇬 Kyrgyzstan 61%
    🇹🇯 Tajikistan 40.4%
    🇪🇨 Ecuador 30.3%
    🌍 Unreported 74165%
    Total1,136100%

    Türkiye, experiencing 86% year-over-year inflation as of October 2022, was the largest buyer, adding 148 tonnes to its reserves. China continued its gold-buying spree with 62 tonnes added in the months of November and December, amid rising geopolitical tensions with the United States.

    Overall, emerging markets continued the trend that started in the 2000s, accounting for the bulk of gold purchases. Meanwhile, a significant two-thirds, or 741 tonnes of official gold purchases were unreported in 2022.

    According to analysts, unreported gold purchases are likely to have come from countries like China and Russia, who are looking to de-dollarize global trade to circumvent Western sanctions.

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Mining

Visualizing Raw Steel Production in 2023

China produces more than half the world’s steel.

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Voronoi graphic showing top raw steel producers in 2023.

Visualizing Raw Steel Production in 2023

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Steel is essential for the economy due to its crucial role in infrastructure, construction, manufacturing, and transportation sectors.

This graphic breaks down the estimated global production of raw steel in 2023. The data was sourced from the U.S. Geological Survey as of January 2024.

China Produces More Than Half the World’s Steel

One major issue facing the steel industry is overcapacity in top producer China.

Steel production in China has surpassed demand in recent years, leading to downward pressure on the profit margins of steel mills worldwide.

Historically, China’s troubled real estate sector has accounted for over one-third of the country’s steel consumption. To address this issue, the Chinese government has mandated steel production cuts since 2021.

Far behind China, India is the second-biggest producer of steel, followed by Japan.

CountryRegion2023 Production (million tonnes)
🇨🇳 ChinaAsia1,000
🇮🇳 IndiaAsia140
🇯🇵 JapanAsia87
🇺🇸 U.S.North America80
🇷🇺 RussiaEurope75
🇰🇷 S. KoreaAsia68
🌍 Rest of World420
Total1,870

Infinite Recyclability

Steel is an alloy primarily composed of iron ore containing less than 2% carbon, 1% manganese, and other trace elements. It is 1,000 times stronger than iron and can be recycled over and over without sacrificing quality.

Steel is widely used in various industries. It is a fundamental material in construction, providing support through beams, internal structures, and roofing.

Moreover, steel’s corrosion-resistant properties make it ideal for water infrastructure. Stainless steel pipes are the preferred choice for underground water systems, ensuring longevity and purity in water transportation.

Additionally, most canned foods are stored in steel containers for preservation, as steel does not rust.

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