Central banks bought the most gold on record last year, WGC says

Marked ingots of 99.99 percent pure gold are placed in a cart at the Krastsvetmet non-ferrous metals plant in Krasnoyarsk
Marked ingots of 99.99 percent pure gold are placed in a cart at the Krastsvetmet non-ferrous metals plant in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, Russia March 10, 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Manzyuk
  • Central banks bought 1,136 tonnes of gold in 2022
  • Emerging economies were main buyers
  • Purchases predicted to fall next year
  • Total global gold demand highest since 2011

LONDON, Jan 31 (Reuters) - (This Jan. 31 story has been officially corrected to say that 2022 central bank gold demand was the highest in records since 1950, not since 1967)

Central banks added a whopping 1,136 tonnes of gold worth some $70 billion to their stockpiles in 2022, by far the most of any year in records going back to 1950, the World Gold Council (WGC) said on Tuesday.

The data underline a shift in attitudes to gold since the 1990s and 2000s, when central banks, particularly those in Western Europe that own a lot of bullion, sold hundreds of tonnes a year.

Since the financial crisis of 2008-09, European banks stopped selling and a growing number of emerging economies such as Russia, Turkey and India have bought.

Central banks like gold because it is expected to hold its value through turbulent times and, unlike currencies and bonds, it does not rely on any issuer or government.

Gold also enables central banks to diversify away from assets like U.S. Treasuries and the dollar.

"This is a continuation of a trend," said World Gold Council analyst Krishan Gopaul.

"You can see those drivers feeding into what happened last year. You had on the geopolitical front and the macroeconomic front a lot of uncertainty and volatility," he said.

Charting the change in global central bank gold holdings since 1950.

Buying dipped during the coronavirus pandemic but accelerated in the second half of 2022, with central banks purchasing 862 tonnes between July and December, according to the WGC.

Banks including those of Turkey, China, Egypt and Qatar said they bought gold last year. But around two-thirds of the gold bought by central banks last year was not reported publicly, the WGC said.

Banks that have not regularly published information about changes in their gold stockpiles include those of China and Russia.

"Central bank buying (in 2023) is unlikely to match 2022 levels," the WGC said.

"Lower total reserves may constrain the capacity to add to existing allocations. But lagged reporting by some central banks means that we need to apply a high degree of uncertainty to our expectations, predominantly to the upside."

The central bank purchases took total gold global gold demand last year to 4,741 tonnes, up 18% from 2021 and the highest for any year since 2011.

Charting global gold demand by segment.

Following are numbers and comparisons.



* Source: World Gold Council, Gold Demand Trends Q4 2022

Reporting by Peter Hobson; editing by Jonathan Oatis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.