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10 countries hoarding massive amounts of gold

The global financial crisis is driving many countries to build their gold reserves in search of a stable monetary resource.

Gold countries 2012 11 09Enlarge
An Austrian worker handles ten kilogram 'raw' gold bars in Austrian gold bullion factory Oegussa in Vienna on Oct. 8, 2008. Oegussa announced that it has increased its production tenfold as the global financial crisis pushes investors toward a precious metal seen as a safe haven during economic turmoil. (Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images)

With the fiscal cliff looming and Europe's ongoing sovereign debt crisis investors have rushed back to gold, widely seen as a safe haven.

In fact, there is a school of thought that suggests euro zone members use gold as collateral for sovereign debt issuance to keep bond yields.

In this environment, gold prices are up to $1,736 an ounce, well above its 52-week low.

And gold prices have also been supported by central bank gold purchases.

We put together a list of the countries with the biggest official gold holdings as reported by the World Gold Council.  We also included the percent of foreign reserves they possess in gold.

Note: CBGA refers to the Central Bank Gold Agreements. The first Agreement (CBGA 1) ran from Sep. 27, 1999 to Sep. 26, 2004.  The second Agreement (CBGA 2) ran from Sep. 27, 2004 to Sep. 26, 2009. The third Agreement (CBGA 3) will run for five years from Sep. 2009.

#10 India

Official gold holdings:
557.7 tonnes

Percent of foreign reserves in gold:
10.6 percent

The Reserve Bank of India is known to buy IMF gold and considers gold to be a safe investment, but rarely comments on its plans to buy gold.

Source: World Gold Council

#9 Netherlands

Official gold holdings:
612.5 tonnes

Percent of foreign reserves in gold:
61.1 percent

Back in 1999, the Netherlands announced under the Central Bank Gold Agreement (CBGA1) that it would sell 300 tonnes of gold during the five years, but only managed to sell 235 tonnes.

Under CBGA2 (2004/2005 –'08/'09) it said it would sell a total of 165 tones (which included the 65 tonnes left over from CBGA1), and it announced no sales under CBGA3 (from 2008/2009 – '13/'14).

Source: World Gold Council

#8 Japan

Official gold holdings:
765.2 tonnes

Percent of foreign reserves in gold:
3.4 percent

Japan's gold reserves were at just 6 tonnes in 1950, and its central bank registered its first serious jump in gold holdings in 1959, with purchases increasing by 169 tonnes from the previous year.

In 2011, the Bank of Japan sold gold to pump ¥20 trillion into the economy to calm investors after the tsunami and nuclear disaster.

Source: World Gold Council

#7 Russia

Official gold holdings:
934.5 tonnes

Percent of foreign reserves in gold:
10.1 percent

Russia has been building its gold reserves since 2006 to diversify its Forex reserves, and to help build the ruble as an international reserve currency.

The central bank typically buys gold from the domestic market and sold some of its gold in October.

Source: World Gold Council

#6 Switzerland

Official gold holdings:
1,040.1 tonnes

Percent of foreign reserves in gold:
11.7 percent

In 1997 proposals were announced to sell a portion of the country's gold reserves because they were no longer considered to be "necessary for monetary policy purposes", according to the World Gold Council.

1,300 tonnes were considered to be surplus gold and the country began selling this in May 2000. 1,170 tonnes were sold under CBGA1, and 130 tones were sold under CBGA2. Switzerland has announced no plans to sell gold under CBGA 3.

Source: World Gold Council

#5 China

Official gold holdings:
1,054.1 tonnes

Percent of foreign reserves in gold:  
1.8 percent

Gold still accounts for a very small percent of China's $3.2 trillion in foreign exchange reserves, compared with the international average of 10 percent.

Building up gold reserves will be crucial to China as it moves to internationalize its currency, and hopes to make it a reserve currency, according to the Financial Times.

Source: World Gold Council

#4 France

Official gold holdings:
2,435.4 tonnes

Percent of foreign reserves in gold:
73.2 percent

France sold 572 tonnes of gold under CBGA 2. And outside of the agreement France transferred about 17 tonnes to the Bank for International Settlements in late 2004 as part purchase of BIS shares. France announced no plans for sales of gold reserves under CBGA 3.

Source: World Gold Council

#3 Italy

Official gold holdings:
2,451.8 tonnes

Percent of foreign reserves in gold:
73.2 percent

Italy sold no gold under CBGA 1 or 2 and has announced no sales under CBGA3. But in 2011, Italian banks were looking to the Bank of Italy to buy gold and  bolster their balance sheets ahead of stress tests.

Source: World Gold Council

#2 Germany

Official gold holdings:
3,395.5 tonnes

Percent of foreign reserves in gold:
73.9 percent

Germany sold gold under CBGA 1 and 2 for the purposes of minting commemorative gold coins. In the first year of CBGA3 (2008 - 2009), the Bundesbank sold approximately 6 tonnes, and it has sold 4.7 tonnes of gold since September 7, 2011.

Germany has refused to have its gold holdings boost the EFSF.

Source: World Gold Council

#1 United States

Official gold holdings:
8,133.5 tonnes

Percent of foreign reserves in gold:
76.6 percent

The US had its largest gold reserves in volume terms in 1952, when reserves totaled 20,663 tonnes. Holdings first fell below the 10K mark in 1968.

Source: World Gold Council

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