When the IMF announced the coming sale of 403 tonnes of its gold, after nearly a decade of threatening to do it, some expected China to purchase a little off-market. Almost no one expected India to make a major move.
The International Monetary Fund has sold 200 tonnes of gold to the Reserve Bank of India for $6,7 billion, quietly executing half of a long-planned bullion sale that has threatened to slow gold’s ascent.
The deal, which surprised traders who expected China to be the most likely buyer, will relieve the gold market of some uncertainty over how and when the IMF would sell 403,3 tonnes of gold, about one-eighth of its total stock. The deal will increase India’s gold holdings to the tenth largest among central banks.
“Central banks in India and China will be happy to accumulate gold at these levels. I will not be surprised to see even some Southeast Asian banks buying gold,” Aaron Smith, Asia head of the $1,65 billion technical trading fund Superfund, told Reuters.
There hasn't been a single gold purchase of comparable size since at least the 1940's. What's more, this may not be over yet.
“It is but a matter of time until China and the IMF announce much of the same,” said Dennis Gartman, an economist and the editor of the Gartman Letter in Suffolk, Virginia.
That may or may not be true. Russia's central bank has been a net gold buyer for a couple years now. Japan is also a huge holder of dollar assets, and a new government that wants to diversify.
Every year for at least the last five years the threat of IMF gold sales was carted out to smack down any significant rise in the price of gold. Suddenly the IMF gold sales has been turned into a gold-positive, rather than a gold-negative. On the day of this first gold sale, the price of gold is hitting new all-time highs.
India's purchase will also pressure other potential buyers to move forward more quickly. India purchased the gold at $1,045, which effectively puts a floor under the price.
Of course none of this would be an important issue if it wasn't for the weakness in the dollar.
“The fall in the U.S. dollar seems to be pushing all the central banks to strengthen their portfolios with gold,” said N.R. Bhanumurthy, a professor at the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy in New Delhi. “Gold is a safe store of value compared to the U.S. dollar.”
As long as the dollar stays weak, people, especially foreigners, will look for alternatives.