PBoC may buy 215 tonnes of gold this year, Barclays forecasts


SINGAPORE: China will press on with gold purchases this year and the central bank will probably scoop up more than 200 metric tonnes as the country seeks to diversify its reserves, according to an estimate from Barclays Plc.

Bullion purchases by the People’s Bank of China in recent months have been very steady, which is “particularly impressive given that China’s total forex reserve has recorded large declines,” analyst Feifei Li said in an e-mailed report. In 2016, buying may average about 17.9 tonnes a month, or 215 tonnes over the full year, she wrote.

Central banks led by China, Russia and Kazakhstan have been adding bullion to their reserves, helping to support prices that have been lifted this year by increased haven demand amid a global rout in stocks. Annual purchases of more than 200 tonnes by the PBoC would exceed the entire holdings of all but about 20 countries worldwide, according to data from the World Gold Council.

“The PBoC will continue to diversify its portfolio,” Wayne Gordon, executive director for commodities and forex at UBS Wealth Management, said in an e-mail. Buying gold helps the central bank to spread risk and reduce volatility, he said.

Asia’s largest economy has expanded its bullion stash by 6.3% since announcing in July a 57% jump since 2009.

China holds the fifth-biggest tonnage by country, with about 1,762 tonnes as of December, according to figures from the PBoC this month. The country is the world’s largest gold miner.

China has been burning through its total forex reserves to reduce yuan volatility after an unexpected devaluation in August.

The reserves sank US$513bil last year to US$3.33 trillion, the first annual drop since 1992. This year, they are seen tumbling US$300bil, according to a Bloomberg survey.

With China’s recent gold purchases seen as steady, the PBoC wasn’t likely to accelerate the pace too much as that risked boosting prices considerably, raising the PBoC’s costs, Barclays said in the report dated Jan 27.

“With the total forex reserve still greater than US$3 trillion, a 1% increase in allocation to gold would require purchasing close to 1,000 tonnes,” Li said. “For China, the incentive to speed up gold purchases is limited, as a small gain in portfolio diversification will risk a large disruption in the gold market.”

Bullion for immediate delivery traded at US$1,118.99 an ounce at 3:36 pm in Singapore, after rallying to US$1,128.16 on Tuesday, the highest level since Nov 3, according to Bloomberg generic pricing.

The metal is 5.5% in 2016 after global shares slumped with crude oil prices. — Bloomberg

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