Earlier this month we published a graph about the US Treasury purchases by foreign countries. From these numbers we concluded China and Japan were the main buyers of this dollar denominated debt, together with the United Kingdom and the Caribbean banking sector. The oil-exporting countries, Russia, Hong Kong, Thailand and some other countries decided to reduce their US Treasury holdings in 2013. It should be clear by now that most countries are not so keen on adding more dollars to their total reserves (with the expection from some countries like Venezuela and Iran). Instead, more countries want to diversify their foreign currency holdings with a tangible asset like gold. Mortymer sent me a tweet earlier this week with the suggestion to put dollar and gold purchases together in one graph.
We already had the data to put such a graph together. We started with the TIC-data, published monthly with some delay by the Federal Reserve. We took the time period between January 2002 and September 2013. From these two months we collected data about the gold reserves, mostly from the World Gold Council website. They publish a monthly statement with the official gold holdings. Some missing numbers could be retrieved from the IMF website.
Unfortunately the data is not 100% complete, because we couldn’t find reliable information on the Iranian gold reserve and the gold held by the Caribbean banking sector. There are some numbers about the Iranian gold reserve, varying from 320 to 500 tonnes, but these are not official numbers. This is the same problem we have with the Chinese gold holdings. We expect them to be much larger than the 1054 tonnes published in 2009. The figure could be multiple thousands right now, but we simply don’t have data to prove it.