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25th Jun 2017

Germany to bring gold reserves back home

  • Thirteen percent of German gold is in London (Photo: bankofengland.co.uk)

Germany, the world's second largest holder of gold reserves after the US, on Wednesday (16 January) decided to repatriate part of its gold bars stored in New York and all of those kept in Paris by 2020.

"The German Bundesbank from 2020 on will store half of the German gold reserves in its own vaults inside the country. The other half will stay with partner central banks in New York and London," the Bundesbank said in a press release.

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Currently, the Frankfurt-based central bank only holds 31 percent of the more than 3,391 tonnes of gold which Germany owns, worth €137.5 billion. The rest is stored in New York (45%), London (13%) and Paris (11%).

The Bundesbank made clear that the move from Paris is not some kind of snub, but is instead linked to the fact that both countries have the same currency, the euro, so that the main reason for storing gold abroad - quick access to a foreign currency in case of crisis - is no longer valid.

The transport of 300 tonnes of the precious metal from New York and 374 tonnes from Paris will be done "gradually," with the Bundesbank keeping the dates of the shipments secret.

Its strategy to acquire gold abroad and store it there was developed during the Cold War, when West Germany feared possible invasion by the Russians. Before German reunification, 98 percent of its gold was in foreign vaults.

In choosing the locations abroad, the Bundesbank considers three criteria: central banks with the best international reputation, stable democratic structures in the host country and very high security standards.

Last October, when hurricane Sandy was rampaging along the US west coast, the Federal reserve was quick to say that its vault in New York, where Germany's and other countries' gold reserves are stored, is safe. "The bank's security arrangements are so trusted by depositors that few have ever asked to examine their gold," it noted.

The same month, he German court of auditors complained that many of the gold bars have never been checked by independent experts to see if they are genuine and to check how much they really weigh.

A member of the Bundesbank board, Carl-Ludwig Thiele, who presented the decision on Wednesday, told reporters the move is "independent" of the auditors' report.

"In Germany, a lot of emotion is attached to the topic of gold reserves. To hold gold as a central bank creates confidence," he said.

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