Germany brings its gold stash home sooner than planned

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Germany’s central bank is bringing home gold reserves stored in places like New York and Paris faster than planned, it said on Thursday, as confidence in the euro ebbs even in the heart of the currency bloc after a decade of a sluggish economy.

Stashed away at the height of the Cold War in safe havens well out of Moscow’s reach, the 3,378-tonne, 120 billion-euro (102 billion-pound) gold stockpile has become a symbol of Germany’s economic ascent and a guardian of its stability.

But with Europe stumbling from crisis to crisis, the German public has grown uneasy about keeping the gold abroad. Some even argue the world’s second biggest bullion reserve may be needed to back a new deutschmark, should the euro zone break up.

Having already moved 583 tonnes of gold out of New York and Paris, the Bundesbank plans to have half its gold in Frankfurt by the end of 2017, years ahead of its 2020 schedule, with the rest split between the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the Bank of England.

“We have a lot of discussions about (U.S. President Donald) Trump, regarding implications on monetary policy, macroeconomics, etc., but we trust the central bank of the U.S.,” Bundesbank board member Carl-Ludwig Thiele told a news conference.

“Trump has not triggered a discussion about the storage facility in New York,” he said.

With French Presidential candidate Marie Le Pen and Italy’s 5-Star Movement openly campaigning to pull their nations out of the euro, confidence in the common currency appears to be waning.

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Opponents argue that the rigidities of the currency union force them from austerity to austerity, keeping unemployment high, wages low and competitiveness weak, perpetuating economic malaise that actually drives countries apart and failing the key goal of the euro.

Thrifty Germans, working to repay debt taken out at the height of the crisis, meanwhile feel they are forced to bankroll many of Europe’s weakest economies, a source of animosity.

Still, the Bundesbank is content to keep just half of the gold at home and has no plans to relocate even more of the reserves, Thiele said.

Thiele added that Britain’s plans to leave the EU have had no effect on the plans, since London remains a key gold-trading market and a safe place for storage.

Moved in part via Switzerland, the relocation has so far cost 6.9 million euros, Thiele said.

Hoping to soothe the public and ease speculation that some of the gold might not even be there, the Bundesbank released a 2,300-page list of gold bars in 2015, promising increased transparency to calm wary Germans.

During the Cold War, 98 percent of Germany’s gold was stored abroad, with the biggest chunk moved so far, some 931 tonnes, brought back from the Bank of England in 2000.

Once the relocation is completed, the Bundesbank will keep 1,236 tonnes in New York, 432 tonnes in London and the rest in Frankfurt. The current move involves 300 tonnes from New York and 374 tonnes from Paris.

Writing by Balazs Koranyi, editing by Larry King