* 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 2012
By Frank Tang
NEW YORK, July 26 (Reuters) - 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 Thursday.
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.
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 gold.
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.