LAWRIE WILLIAMS: China’s gold reserves – fact or fiction?

LAWRIE WILLIAMS: China’s gold reserves – fact or fiction? – Sharps Pixley

One of the biggest unanswered questions facing the gold analyst and investor is ‘are China’s officially reported gold reserves to the IMF fact or fiction?   According to the country’s central bank, which reports these figures to the IMF, which does not check any of the nationally reported gold reserve figures, these have remained static at 59.24 million troy ounces (1,842.6 tonnes) for the past 20 months keeping the country in sixth place in terms of national gold holdings.

Well the answer to the question, in our opinion (pure speculation), is yes they are fact and fiction at the same time and one has to understand Chinese bureaucratic logic to make sense of this.   In terms of the bullion accounts China feels the need to report to the IMF the figure is probably correct, but that doesn’t mean the country is not holding physical gold in other accounts under state control and only reports this when it moves the gold into its official forex holdings account  which can be at multi-year intervals.

China did report monthly increases in its gold reserves in the 15 month run up to the yuan being accepted as a constituent of the IMF’s Special Drawing Right, but since then nothing, which looks like the nation is reverting to the pattern of only reporting big reserve increases after five or six years of reporting a static reserve.  The last such big increase was in mid 2015 when 604 tonnes of gold suddenly appeared in the Chinese reserve figure.  The previous reported reserve increase was in April 2009 of around 450 tonnes after reporting zero increases for the previous seven and a half years.

At the time of the 2015 increase, the Chinese central bank said it had been purchasing this gold via assorted domestic refineries, production stockpiles and through trading on domestic and international exchanges. It had been holding this gold in accounts separate from its forex holdings and had not felt the need to report this to the IMF until it moved the gold into its official forex accounts.

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Lawrence Williams

Lawrence (Lawrie) Williams is a well known London-based writer and commentator on financial and political subjects, but specialising in precious metals news and commentary. He is a qualified and experienced mining engineer having graduated in mining engineering from The Royal School of Mines, a constituent college of Imperial College, London – recently described as the World’s No. 2 University (after MIT). He has worked in mines in South Africa (gold, uranium and platinum), Canada (uranium), Zambia (copper) and U.K (coal) and holds a South African Mine Managers certificate. He also worked as a gold mining company analyst for one of the major South African mining houses. He left South Africa to join Mining Journal as Financial Editor and worked his way through that organisation to edit Mining Magazine, and then join the Board. He was Managing Director (CEO) of the company for 13 years up until it was sold in 2001. During part of this period he was also President of Nevada-based U.S. company Mining Media Inc which was publisher of North American Mining magazine.