Last year, foreign central banks were net buyers of gold for the first time since 1997. India, China and Russia have been the biggest buyers. And more recently, the Philippines and Kazakhstan jumped into the fray with big purchases of the precious metal during the first quarter, according to data released by the World Gold Council Thursday.
The Chinese role in world gold is interesting, and unsettling for those of us counting on the U.S. dollar being worth more than a plugged nickel:
China is considered a stealth buyer of gold, said Boris Schlossberg, director of currency research at Global Forex Trading. As the world's largest producer of the metal, China often buys gold from its own mines and doesn't report those sales publicly. But in April 2009, China did admit to having added 454 tonnes, or a 76% increase, to its reserves since 2003.
Analysts suspect the country is continuing to buy gold and could in fact, be the world's largest buyer consistently. It simply doesn't reveal it's pro-gold stance proudly, however, because China is also the world's largest holder of U.S. Treasurys.
Announcing an aggressive gold buying spree is not in China's best interest because, for one, it might push gold prices higher. Secondly, it could devalue the U.S. dollar, which would subsequently lessen the worth of the country's portfolio of U.S. government bonds, Schlossberg said
I interviewed author Nathan Lewis about the reasons for and possible future of gold in international currency back in 2007.