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Germany’s Bundesbank likely to hold on to gold reserves

Germany’s Bundesbank will probably hold on to the vast bulk of its gold reserves in the next year of the central bank gold agreement, beginning in September, central bank president Axel Weber said on Tuesday.

“We will take advice on the last year of the central bank gold agreement and the use of the options in September,” Weber said at a Bundesbank event. “It would surprise me if at this meeting in September there were fundamentally new developments. But I don’t rule it out, we will decide in September.” The Bundesbank, which is the second-largest holder of gold behind the US Federal Reserve, announced in October it would sell a maximum of 8 tons of gold to the German finance ministry to mint coins in the fourth year of the deal. Bundesbank holds 3,417.4 tons (at end Dec), worth more than $100 billion.

Gold hit a 28-year high of $991.90 an ounce on March 6. Prices have more than doubled in the last five years, lifting the value of gold’s share of central bank reserves. In March 2004, 15 European central banks renewed a 1999 pact to limit their sales over a five-year period to 2,500 tons - with annual sales limited to 500 tons - up from 2,000 tons in the first agreement.

The Bundesbank can sell 120 tons of gold a year but has consistently passed on most of its quota to other institutions. The fourth year of the agreement began on Sept. 27. In the third year, central banks sold 475.75 tons of gold, short of the 500-ton annual limit. The Bundesbank has refused to sell down its reserves, not wanting to hand the German government a budget windfall. (Reuters)