Investors question accuracy of data
China released data on its gold holdings for the first time in about six years, but investors say the guessing game about the country’s actual inventory continues.
The People’s Bank of China on Friday published figures on its gold reserves for the first time since 2009. Its official gold reserves stood at 53.3 million ounces, or 1,658 metric tons, in June.
The last time China reported official figures was in April 2009. Back then, the figure stood at 1,054 metric tons, according to Ross Norman, chief executive officer at Sharps Pixley.
The latest total is about half what the market thought it was. The market was generally expecting a total of well over 3,000 metric tons, according to Brien Lundin, editor of Gold Newsletter.
“There is much evidence that [China’s] holdings are actually at those higher levels, which makes one wonder why they would feel compelled to understate the total now,” he said
Ken Ford, president of Warwick Valley Financial Advisors, said China has been pressing to be included in the International Monetary Fund’s Special Drawing Rights, or SDR, currency basket. “So they want to show that the have accumulated enough, but do not want to show their whole hand because it may spook the markets,” he said.
China has undertaken economic reforms aimed at persuading the IMF to include the yuan in the basket, which would accelerate its acceptance as a reserve currency.Read: China’s yuan has ‘Long March’ to reserve-currency status
Or, China could be “lowballing” their reserves to maintain confidence in its substantial U.S. dollar holdings, according to Mark O’Byrne, research director at GoldCore in Dublin.
But lifting the yuan’s potential as a global reserve currency is what’s behind China’s move to lift the shroud of mystery surrounding its hoard of gold.
“China has ambitions to create a global reserve currency to challenge the hegemony of the U.S. dollar DXY, +0.30% and fill the void created by the declining holdings by central banks of the euro EURUSD, -0.4138% ” Norman said.
And the Chinese “clearly recognize gold’s role in providing credibility and status to what would be a new currency on the international stage,” he said.
The IMF will be considering the inclusion of the yuan “under the special drawing rights in October—evidently the PBOC has more legwork to do if they want to be taken seriously,” he said.
That could mean China will be adding a lot more gold to its reserves in the months to come.
O’Byrne said he wouldn’t be surprised if China starts to accumulate a minimum of 100 metric tons of gold a month.