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By A. Ananthalakshmi
SINGAPORE, Oct 16 (Reuters) - China increased its gold holdings by nearly 1 percent in September even as total foreign exchange reserves dipped, central bank data showed on Friday.
Gold reserves rose by 480,000 fine troy ounces, or 14.9 tonnes, to 54.93 million ounces, or 1,708.5 tonnes at the end of September, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) said.
The central bank added 16.2 tonnes in August and nearly 19 tonnes in July.
“Their buying has been pretty consistent,” said Victor Thianpiriya, commodity strategist at ANZ.
“It’s clear that they consider gold to be an important part of their holdings. So it won’t surprise me if they continue to add to reserves.”
An increase in the gold price in October is unlikely to have deterred the PBOC from buying more, he said.
The rise in China’s gold holdings comes at a time when its total foreign exchange reserves are falling as the central bank steps up intervention to stabilise the yuan currency.
Its foreign exchange reserves, the world’s largest, dropped $43.3 billion to $3.514 trillion in September, data showed earlier this month.
China is the world’s sixth largest official sector gold holder after the United States, Germany, the International Monetary Fund, Italy and France.
Gold reserves still make up only 1.7 percent of China’s total reserves, according to Reuters calculations, a factor the market believes will drive the PBOC to continue buying.
The United States, the top holder of gold with over 8,000 tonnes of bullion, has 73 percent of its total foreign reserves in gold, according to the World Gold Council (WGC).
China should increase its gold holdings to around 5 percent of its total reserves to help diversify currency risks, a WGC official said earlier this year.
China previously considered its gold holdings a state secret and did not report its holdings on a monthly basis to the International Monetary Fund like most other countries.
It began updating its reserve figures on a monthly basis in June, in a bid to increase transparency as Beijing campaigns to include the yuan in the IMF’s special drawing rights basket. Before the June update, China had last revealed its gold holdings in April 2009.
Reporting by A. Ananthalakshmi; Additional reporting by Judy Hua and Nick Heath; Editing by Richard Pullin