2022 was the highest year on record in global history for central bank gold purchases, and the momentum has yet to cease as we enter the new year. Singapore’s recent data release from the World Gold Council in February shows the nation buying a whopping 6.8 tons in a singular month. The World Gold Council and other organizations did not expect 2023 to show as significant central bank gold demand as compared to 2022’s total of 1,136 tons purchased, though as we near the end of the first quarter, a forecast readjustment may be in order.
Singapore’s 6.8 tons of gold purchased in February was not a siloed event—this marked the second month in a row that the nation stockpiled the yellow precious metal. In January, the nation purchased 44.6 tons.
“Its gold reserves totaled 205 tons at the end of the month, over 51 tons higher than at the end of 2022,” Krishan Gopaul, the senior European, Middle East, and Asian markets analyst for the World Gold Council explained on Twitter.
Central banks continue purchasing gold as the U.S. dollar loses more value, banking fears increase with the fall of more prominent institutions, and mentions of an oil crisis spread around the globe with recent announcements from OPEC+ to cut exports by over 1 million barrels a day. Total central bank gold reserves increased by over 52 tons in February alone, marking the 11th straight month of net purchases. After the first two months of 2023, net central bank purchases totaled at 125 tons, showing the strongest start to any year since 2010.
“Central banks are not going to stop buying gold anytime soon,” Robert Minter, abrdn’s director of ETF Investment Strategy, explained to Kitco News in an interview, while discussing why investors should add more weight to gold in their investment portfolios as it would come out green in a multipolar currency world.
“The dollar won’t lose its reserve currency status anytime soon, but central banks will continue to diversify away from the U.S. dollar.”
Singapore might have increased its reserves by a significant amount in February, but it’s by no means the leader in stockpiling gold. China rang in as February’s biggest gold buyer with the People’s Bank of China purchasing 24.9 tons. February marked China’s fourth-consecutive gold-buying month, bringing its purchased reserves in that period to 102 tons.
Between 2002 and 2019, China’s central bank purchased a total of 1,448 tons of gold, then went quiet until November 2022, leaving many to speculate over unreported purchases. Speculators believe China secures as much as thousands of tons of gold off the books in the State Administration for Foreign Exchange (SAFE).
In 2022, numerous accounts of unreported central bank holding increases occurred. Both China and Russia failed to report various purchases. Some believe the nations may stockpile gold to minimize impacts on the dollar, though regardless of the purpose, the same case could be happening in current time, meaning we may have even higher February figures than reported.
Right after China was Turkey, with a total February purchase amount of 22.5 tons of gold. Turkey’s central bank held the crown for top-buyer across all nations in 2022, and seems to be maintaining this trend with 15 straight months of stockpiling. The nation’s rampant inflation rates reaching 85% last year and 64% in December causing the Turkish lira to depreciate by nearly 30% explains this behavior.
Other significant nations in the gold-buying game include India, purchasing 2.8 tons, the Central Bank of Uzbekistan, stockpiling 8 tons, and Mexico, adding 0.3 tons to its reserves. Russia’s central bank finally released its reserve data for the first time in over a year, displaying a 31-ton increase from the last report, though without information on when the purchases occurred.
After 13 years straight of net gold purchases and the record-high rate of 2022, the World Gold Council predicts another net purchase year for 2023, though the results may be higher than initially expected, given February’s impressive figures. Gold performs best during times of crisis when central banks need to store value. As we teeter on the edge of a global recession, gold is the only safety net for many nations.
“Central banks are buying a lot of gold and because there’s a lot of inflation,” Paul Wong, the market strategist at Sprott, explains. “If you want to protect the purchasing power of your reserve currencies, gold is the one asset that can be used as an outside currency. It is fungible whether your central banking system is western based or, led by China.”