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LONDON, July 31 (Reuters) - London’s precious metals vaults held 7,449 tonnes of gold worth $298 billion and 32,078 tonnes of silver worth $19 billion as of March 31, the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA) said on Monday, publishing such data for the first time.
These holdings underpin the world’s largest gold trading centre, with an average $18.1 billion in gold trades cleared per day in London in March, according to the LBMA.
The figures are the first of what will be monthly data on London vault holdings released by the LBMA as part of a push for the greater transparency desired by regulators.
Next year the LBMA also plans to start publishing trade data that will for the first time show the total daily market turnover of gold and silver in London.
“It is a commitment from what is ultimately an over-the-counter market to putting this data out,” said LBMA Chief Executive Ruth Crowell. “Gold has always been sensitive ... but there’s no reason that we can’t bring transparency.”
London’s gold trade is dominated by over-the-counter (OTC) business conducted bilaterally among networks of brokers, banks and traders who have been reluctant to reveal their activity.
Gold and silver is held in and around the city in vaults operated by the Bank of England, commercial banks HSBC, ICBC Standard Bank and JP Morgan, and secure logistics companies Brinks, G4S Cash Solutions , Malca-Amit and Loomis International, the LBMA said.
It said the metal held on March 31 equated to approximately 596,000 gold bars - enough if stacked on top of one another to reach two and a half times the height of Mount Everest - and 1,069,255 silver bars.
The data includes coins and metal bars, but not jewellery or private holdings outside the London clearing system.
The LBMA said gold holdings stood at 7,283 tonnes in July last year, when its data set begins, while silver holdings amounted to 29,593 tonnes.
The Bank of England held 5,081 tonnes of gold in March, around 10-20 percent on behalf of commercial banks, said Joni Teves, a precious metals strategist at UBS.
Roughly a further 1,485 tonnes of gold in London vaults was probably for physically-backed exchange-traded funds, she said, leaving around 1,460-1,965 tonnes in unallocated and allocated accounts available for OTC trading activities.
The LBMA plans to publish holdings of platinum and palladium from a later date. (Reporting by Peter Hobson; Editing by David Evans, Greg Mahlich)