Russia Out-Buys World In Gold Bullion

Source: Bloomberg – Putin Turns Black Gold to Bullion as Russia Outbuys World

Notable excerpts:

When Vladimir Putin says the U.S. is endangering the global economy by abusing its dollar monopoly, he’s not just talking. He’s betting on it.

Not only has Putin made Russia the world’s largest oil producer, he’s also made it the biggest gold buyer. His central bank has added 570 metric tons of the metal in the past decade, a quarter more than runner-up China, according to IMF data compiled by Bloomberg.

The more gold a country has, the more sovereignty it will have if there’s a cataclysm with the dollar, the euro, the pound or any other reserve currency,” Evgeny Fedorov, a lawmaker for Putin’s United Russia party in the lower house of parliament, said…

Central banks around the world have printed money to escape the global financial crisis, sapping investor appetite for dollars and euros and setting off a scramble for safety.

Putin told Bank Rossii not to “shy away” from the metal. “After all, they’re called gold and currency reserves for a reason,” Putin said, according to a Kremlin transcript.

Other world leaders haven’t been as lucky. Gordon Brown, as U.K. finance minister, sold almost 400 tons of gold in the 30 months to March 2002, when prices were at two-decade lows. London tabloids have referred to the period as Brown’s Bottom.

Quantitative easing by major economies to support financial asset prices is driving demand for gold in the emerging world, said Marcus Grubb, head of investment research at the World Gold Council. Before the crisis, central banks were net sellers of 400 to 500 tons a year. Now, led by Russia and China, they’re net buyers by about 450 tons, Grubb said…

“That’s a very significant switch, and obviously a very positive one for the gold market,” Grubb said.

While Putin is leading the gold rush in emerging markets, developed nations are liquidating. Switzerland unloaded the most in the past decade, 877 tons, an amount now worth about $48 billion, according to International Monetary Fund data through November. France was second with 589 tons, while Spain, the Netherlands and Portugal each sold more than 200 tons.

Even after Putin’s binge, though, Russia’s total cache of about 958 tons is only the eighth largest, the World Gold Council said in a Feb. 8 report. The U.S. is No. 1 with about 8,134 tons, followed by Germany with 3,391 tons and the Washington-based IMF with 2,814 tons. Italy, France, China and Switzerland are fourth through seventh. While gold accounts for 9.5 percent of Russia’s total reserves, it accounts for more than 70 percent in the U.S., Germany, Italy and France.

Technically, state metals depositary Gokhran has the exclusive right to buy all gold mined in the country. In practice, it lets commercial banks buy from producers directly, usually in the form of project financing, said Sergey Kashuba, chairman of the Russian Union of Gold Producers in Moscow.

When the central bank buys gold, it’s from those commercial banks, led last year by OAO Sberbank, OAO Nomos Bank, VTB Group and OAO Gazprombank, Kashuba said. Russia produced 205 tons of gold last year, making it No. 4 after China, Australia and the U.S., according to U.S. Geological Survey estimates.”

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