It's not only individuals that are seeking security in gold, but governments are also making notable purchases of the precious metal. European central banks have become net buyers of gold for the first time in more than 20 years, according to the Financial Times.
This is a drastic shift, because as Forbes points out, until recent years, European central banks collectively were selling a few hundred tons of gold annually, resulting in net annual sales. But now those sales have dried up.
Instead, those banks have added about 25,000 ounces of gold to their reserves this year, according to data from the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, reported the Financial Times.
The realities brought on by the global financial crisis are believed to have prompted reserve managers to change their strategies. Whereas governments were heavily inclined to invest in sovereign debt, following the global recession, they begin to recognize the high risks involved in doing so. Now, faced with the potential of further economic woes of a global magnitude, central banks are increasing their holdings of gold.
This trend is not exclusive to Europe. According to the Financial Times, Mexico, Russia, South Korea and Thailand have all made large purchases this year, in a move to reduce their exposure to the dollar.
The Financial Times also noted that even in Europe much of this year's gold buying is attributed to Estonia and also Malta.
Central banks in the emerging markets have already bought more than double the gold they bought in all of 2010, Jeff Clark, senior precious-metals analyst with Casey Research said in Forbes.
That emerging nations, which once held large amounts of their reserves in currencies, are shifting to gold indicates that even governments have a lower tolerance for risk and are increasingly concerned with the safety of their assets.
When currencies were directly linked to gold, there was more of a consensus considering the metal to be money. The shift from that system now leads to debates over whether or not gold is money or merely an asset like any other. Whatever conclusion one may reach in that argument, what is becoming undeniably clear is that governments are viewing gold as increasingly important risk management tool in these times of economic uncertainty.
For the year to date, net purchases by the world’s central banks are 203.5 metric tons of gold, which already is a 168 percent increase from 76 tons for all of 2010, said Natalie Dempster, director, government affairs, with the World Gold Council in a Forbes article.
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