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Mapped: The Countries With the Most Foreign Currency Reserves

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Mapped: The Countries With the Most Foreign Currency Reserves

The Countries With the Most Foreign Currency Reserves

In the high stakes game of international trade, holding onto a stockpile of foreign cash gives you options.

Forex reserves can help buoy the local currency or even provide much-needed insurance in the case of a national economic emergency. And when reserves are plentiful, a country can even use them to wield influence on international affairs – after all, most financial assets are simultaneously someone else’s liability.

Forex Reserves by Country

Today’s infographic comes to us from HowMuch.net, and it resizes countries on a world map based on their foreign currency reserves, according to the most recent IMF data.

Here is a list of the top 10 countries – China tops the list with a solid $3.2 trillion in reserves held:

RankCountryForex Reserves ($B)
#1China$3,161.5
#2Japan$1,204.7
#3Switzerland$785.7
#4Saudi Arabia$486.6
#5Hong Kong (China)$437.5
#6India$397.2
#7South Korea$385.3
#8Brazil$358.3
#9Russia$356.5
#10Singapore$279.8

The first thing you may gather from this list is that major economies like the U.S. and Europe are noticeably absent, but that is because the U.S. dollar and the euro are the most common reserve currencies used in international transactions. As a result, countries such as the United States do not need to hold as many reserves.

To put this all into context, here is what central banks reported in 2017 Q3 for their foreign currency holdings:

RankReserve CurrencyGlobal Holdings
#1U.S. Dollar63.5%
#2Euro20.0%
#3Japanese Yen4.5%
#4British Pound4.5%
#5Canadian Dollar2.0%
#6Aussie Dollar1.8%
#7Chinese Yuan1.1%
n/aOther2.6%

Interestingly, the Japanese yen has decent acceptance as a reserve currency, but the country still holds the second highest amount of foreign currency reserves ($1.2 trillion) anyways. This is partially because Japan is an export powerhouse, sending $605 billion of exports abroad every year.

Why Hold Foreign Currency Reserves?

And now, a practical question: why do these countries hold foreign currency reserves in the first place?

Here are seven reasons, as originally noted by The Balance:

  1. Forex reserves allow a country to maintain the value of their domestic currency at a fixed rate
  2. Countries with floating exchange rates can buy up foreign currencies or financial instruments to reduce the value of their domestic currency
  3. Forex reserves can help maintain liquidity during an economic crisis
  4. Reserves can provide confidence to foreign investors, showing that the central bank has the ability to take action to protect their investments
  5. Foreign currency reserves give a country extra insurance in meeting external payment obligations
  6. Forex reserves can be used to fund certain sectors, like building infrastructure
  7. They also provide a means of diversification, which allows central banks to reduce the risk of their overall portfolios

For a related animation, see the history of how the U.S. dollar spread across the world.

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Markets

Charted: Stock Buybacks by the Magnificent Seven

While Apple carried out $83 billion in stock buybacks over the last four quarters, Amazon and Tesla didn’t report any.

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Nightingale chart of stock buybacks for the magnificent seven stocks showing that Apple had the most buybacks of $83 billion.

Charted: Stock Buybacks of the Magnificent Seven

By 2025, Goldman Sachs predicts that total U.S. stock buybacks will exceed $1 trillion. The bank sees this growth being driven by strong tech earnings growth and lower rates.

But what are buyback amounts like for the largest tech companies today?

This graphic looks at the total value of shares each Magnificent Seven company has repurchased in the last four quarters using data from their latest financial statements.

What is a Stock Buyback?

A stock buyback is when a company buys their own shares to reduce the number of available shares on the market. Companies may choose to buy back stock to return value to shareholders. Having fewer shares available improves earnings per share, and may drive up the stock price.

Buying back stocks can also come with risks, such as using up cash that would otherwise be put toward growing the business.

Stock Buybacks of Tech Titans

We gathered data from company financial statements to see how stock buyback amounts differed among the Magnificent Seven. Each total represents what companies reported from June 1, 2023 to June 1, 2024.

As we can see, the tech companies in the Magnificent Seven have been the ones buying back their stock over the past year.

CompanyTotal Stock BuybacksBuybacks as a % of Market Cap
Apple$83B2.8%
Alphabet (Google)$63B2.9%
Meta$25B2.0%
Microsoft$20B0.6%
Nvidia$17B0.6%
Amazon$0B0.0%
Tesla$0B0.0%

Values rounded to the nearest billion. Company market caps are as of June 6, 2024.

Apple had by far the most share repurchases, raising its diluted earnings per share from $1.26 to $1.53. Going forward, Apple authorized an additional $110 billion for share repurchases, a U.S. record. The board says the repurchases are in light of their “confidence in Apple’s future and the value we see in our stock.”

On the flip side, both Amazon and Tesla did not issue stock buybacks in the last four quarters. Amazon’s CFO Brian Olsavsky recently emphasized the company’s strategy of reinvesting in the business. He says Amazon is focused on reducing debt and building data centers to take advantage of AI.

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