Russia Adds More Gold as Sanctions Weaken Ruble to Record Low

Moscow (Nov 18)  Russia added to its gold holdings, expanding the world’s fifth-biggest hoard as plunging oil prices and sanctions push the ruble to a record low.

The central bank has bought about 150 metric tons of bullion this year, Governor Elvira Nabiullina told lawmakers today. That indicates it added about 35 tons since the end of September, based on the latest data from the International Monetary Fund. Russia bought 37.2 tons in September, the most since 1998.

“News that Russia remains a strong buyer of gold does add some support to a market which has been struggling to find any friends during the past few months,” Ole Hansen, head of commodities strategy at Saxo Bank A/S in Copenhagen, said today by e-mail.

The purchases helped send gold to a two-week high today. Russia has tripled its gold reserves since 2005 and is now hoarding about 1,185 tons, according to Bloomberg calculations based on the most recent IMF data. Policy makers increased interest rates last month for a fourth time since March to shore up sentiment in the currency and curb capital outflows.

Gold for immediate delivery rose as much as 1.5 percent to $1,204.68 an ounce in London today, the highest since Oct. 30, according to Bloomberg generic pricing. Prices reached $1,132.16 on Nov. 7, the lowest since April 2010.

Bullion declined in the past two months as the dollar rallied on expectations an improving U.S. economy will spur the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates next year. Higher rates curb the appeal of gold because the metal generally only offers investors returns through price gains.

Gold Sales

Investors sold gold through exchange-traded products in six of the previous seven months, data compiled by Bloomberg show. They cut holdings to 1,617.4 tons on Nov. 14, the lowest level in more than five years.

The Russian central bank also said it sees no need for curbs on exports of gold as proposed by some lawmakers.

“We are able to buy enough gold to diversify our gold and currency reserves,” Nabiullina told parliament today.

Central banks are adding gold to reserves again after reducing holdings for about two decades from the late 1980s. Global purchases will be 400 tons to 500 tons this year, the London-based World Gold Council said last week.

Gold accounts for about 10 percent of Russia’s total foreign reserves, according to the council. That compares with about 70 percent for the U.S. and Germany, the biggest bullion holders, the data show.

Source: Bloomberg