Germany brings home gold reserves ahead of schedule

FILE PHOTO: An employee of Deutsche Bundesbank tests a gold bar with an ultrasonic appliance during a news conference in Frankfurt January 16, 2013. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner/File Photo

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Germany’s central bank has brought much of its gold reserve back to Frankfurt, the Bundesbank said on Wednesday, restoring a bulwark of economic stability the country had stashed away at the height of the Cold War.

Guarded well out of Moscow’s reach in safe havens like New York, London and Paris, the 3,378-tonne, 140 billion-euro gold stockpile had been a symbol of Germany’s ascent, insulating the economy even when others struggled.

But as the rest of the euro zone stumbled from crisis to crisis over the past decade, the German public grew uneasy about keeping the gold abroad. Some even questioned whether the gold is still there.

In secretive operation spanning five years, the Bundesbank moved 674 tonnes of gold back from the Banque de France in Paris and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Just over half of all Bundesbank gold is now stored in its own vaults in Frankfurt.

Most of the rest - 1,236 tonnes - will remain in New York indefinitely. A smaller portion, 432 tonnes, will be held at the Bank of England in London.

Hoping to soothe the public and ease speculation about the existence of the gold, 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 the gold was stored abroad. The biggest chunk moved so far, some 931 tonnes, was brought back from the Bank of England in 2000.

Reporting by Balazs Koranyi, editing by Larry King