It seems that after a short respite, Russia has decided it’s time for some discount gold shopping again.
Just this week, the Central Bank of the Russian Federation (CBR) published its official reserve assets report that indicated the country added 30.5 tonnes of gold (981,500 troy ounces) to its reserves in March 2015 alone. The massive purchase is the largest since September last year and is valued at approximately $1.15 billion.
The chart shows that Russia returned to buying gold with gusto after a quiet period in January and February, which was probably due to higher gold prices that swayed Russians away from adding to their holdings.
Further, according to data compiled by the World Gold Council (WGC), Russia sold less than half a tonne of gold in January. This, however, is but peanuts compared to the 30 tonnes it purchased two months later or to the metal it had snapped up in the preceding months. Moreover, this sale seems to follow the pattern we observed in January 2014 when the country sold roughly the same amount of gold.
As per latest reports, the country’s gold reserve stands at about 1,238 tonnes or 39.8 million ounces. Let’s put that in perspective.
What we see here is not some random pattern of purchases. Quite the contrary, this is a trend that has been in swing for years, and boosted Russia’s gold holdings from just above 400 tonnes to well over 1,200 tonnes since 2001. Roughly 173 tonnes were purchased last year alone—more than double the 77.4 tonnes of gold bought in 2013 and above the amounts acquired in any of the previous years.
Frankly, it’s nothing short of amazing that Russia continues to buy any gold after its economy has taken it on the chin from Western sanctions and a chronic slump in oil prices. Yet, though Russia has opted not to sell its gold—despite all speculations to the contrary—and instead bought more of it, it’s been far less bullish on another asset.
The chart above demonstrates unambiguously that Russia began its de-dollarization efforts before it was hit with Western sanctions, and the move is picking up steam.
The message is clear, and it’s one that we accurately detected years ago and have monitored since: by offloading treasuries and loading up on gold, Russia is making an all-in bet against the US dollar, in favor of the yellow metal. Concurrently, it’s playing an active role, along with the likes of China, Iran, and Kazakhstan, in the expanding international movement to bypass the dollar’s use in trade settlement via the employment of currency swaps and other measures. Staying ahead of this trend is one of the integral elements of our investment strategy.