* Russia adds 0.3 tonnes for 9th consecutive monthly gain
* Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan boost gold holdings
* Turkey decreases by 3.8 tonnes for first drop since June
By Frank Tang
NEW YORK, July 26 Russia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan
are among eight countries that increased their gold holdings in
June, data from the International Monetary Fund shows,
reflecting strong interest on the part of emerging economies to
own gold as part of their reserves.
Turkey, Germany and seven other countries, however, shed
some of their bullion holdings that month, according to IMF's
monthly International Financial statistics report, released late
Investors are closely monitoring any possible shift in
central bank attitudes toward gold after bullion prices
plummeted to as low as $1,180 an ounce in late June, down from
around $1,700 at the start of this year. Spot gold
dropped 1 percent to $1,320 on Friday.
Fears of an imminent scaling back of the U.S. Federal
Reserve bond-buyback stimulus and an improving global economic
outlook have severely undermined gold's investment appeal.
Data showed Russia's gold reserves climbed 0.3 tonnes to a
total of 996.4 tonnes in June for its ninth consecutive monthly
increase. Russia has the world's seventh-largest bullion
holdings excluding the IMF's.
Ukraine raised its gold by 2.5 tonnes to 38.9 tonnes, and
Azerbaijan added by two tonnes for a total of eight tonnes.
The Central Asian countries continued to accumulate the
yellow metal, with Kazakhstan increasing its holdings by 1.4
tonnes to 130.9 tonnes and Kyrgyzstan raising its stocks by less
than 0.1 tonne to 3.3 tonnes.
Greece, Belarus and Bulgaria also reported small increases
to their gold reserves.
BUYERS OR SELLERS?
Central banks as a group became net buyers in 2010 after
they had been net sellers the previous two decades. The 2008
global economic crisis triggered resurgent official-sector
interest in gold.
However, news in April that Cyprus could be forced to sell
some of its gold reserves in return for IMF and European
Commission financial lifelines stirred fears of a new wave of
central bank gold sales.
Turkey, which has the world's 11th-largest gold reserve,
reported a 3.8 tonne decrease to 441.5 tonnes in June, the first
monthly drop since June 2012.
Turkey's gold holdings rose in the 12 months prior to June,
partly due to a decision by the country's central bank to allow
commercial banks to hold a portion of their lira reserves in
Germany, the world's second-largest gold owner, reported a
0.8 tonne decrease to 3,390.6 tonnes in June.
Other countries that also reduced their gold holdings
include Suriname, Guatemala, Mexico, Zimbabwe, Costa Rica, Czech
Republic and Denmark.
Year to date, gold was down 21 percent, at risk of an
annual loss after 12 straight years of gains.