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Central Banks and Gold Puzzles

  • Joshua Aizenman
  • Kenta Inoue

We study the curious patterns of gold holding and trading by central banks during 1979-2010. With the exception of several discrete step adjustments, central banks keep maintaining passive stocks of gold, independently of the patterns of the real price of gold. We also observe the synchronization of gold sales by central banks, as most reduced their positions in tandem, and their tendency to report international reserves valuation excluding gold positions. Our analysis suggests that the intensity of holding gold is correlated with 'global power' - by the history of being a past empire, or by the sheer size of a country, especially by countries that are or were the suppliers of key currencies. These results are consistent with the view that central bank's gold position signals economic might, and that gold retains the stature of a 'safe haven' asset at times of global turbulence. The under-reporting of gold positions in the international reserve/GDP statistics is consistent with loss aversion, wishing to maintain a sizeable gold position, while minimizing the criticism that may occur at a time when the price of gold declines.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17894.

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Date of creation: Mar 2012
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Publication status: published as Aizenman, Joshua & Inoue, Kenta, 2013. "Central banks and gold puzzles," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 28(C), pages 69-90.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17894
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  1. Aizenman, Joshua & D. Chinn, Menzie & Ito, Hiro, 2009. "Surfing the Waves of Globalization: Asia and Financial Globalization in the Context of the Trilemma," ADB Economics Working Paper Series 180, Asian Development Bank.
  2. Joshua Aizenman & Nancy Marion, 2002. "The high demand for international reserves in the Far East: what's going on?," Pacific Basin Working Paper Series 2002-08, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
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  8. Richard H. Clarida, 2007. "G7 Current Account Imbalances: Sustainability and Adjustment," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number clar06-2, July.
  9. Joshua Aizenman & Jaewoo Lee, 2007. "International Reserves: Precautionary Versus Mercantilist Views, Theory and Evidence," Open Economies Review, Springer, vol. 18(2), pages 191-214, April.
  10. Gourinchas, Pierre-Olivier & Rey, Hélène, 2005. "From World Banker to World Venture Capitalist: US External Adjustment and The Exorbitant Privilege," CEPR Discussion Papers 5220, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  11. Yin-Wong Cheung & Hiro Ito, 2009. "A Cross-Country Empirical Analysis of International Reserves," CESifo Working Paper Series 2654, CESifo Group Munich.
  12. Pablo García & Claudio Soto, 2006. "Large Hoardings of International Reserves: Are They Worth It?," Central Banking, Analysis, and Economic Policies Book Series, in: Ricardo Caballero & César Calderón & Luis Felipe Céspedes & Norman Loayza (Series Editor) & Klaus Sc (ed.), External Vulnerability and Preventive Policies, edition 1, volume 10, chapter 6, pages 171-206 Central Bank of Chile.
  13. Richard H. Clarida, 2007. "Introduction to "G7 Current Account Imbalances: Sustainability and Adjustment"," NBER Chapters, in: G7 Current Account Imbalances: Sustainability and Adjustment, pages 1-10 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Aizenman, Joshua & Glick, Reuven, 2008. "Sovereign Wealth Funds: Stylized Facts about their Determinants and Governance," Santa Cruz Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt1fj4b203, Department of Economics, UC Santa Cruz.
  15. Reinhart, Carmen & Calvo, Guillermo, 2002. "Fear of floating," MPRA Paper 14000, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  16. Arellano, Manuel & Bond, Stephen, 1991. "Some Tests of Specification for Panel Data: Monte Carlo Evidence and an Application to Employment Equations," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 58(2), pages 277-97, April.
  17. Aizenman, Joshua & Inoue, Kenta, 2013. "Central banks and gold puzzles," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 28(C), pages 69-90.
  18. Michael Dooley & David Folkerts-Landau & Peter Garber, 2005. "An essay on the revived Bretton Woods system," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue Feb.
  19. Olivier Jeanne, 2007. "International Reserves in Emerging Market Countries: Too Much of a Good Thing?," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 38(1), pages 1-80.
  20. Dominguez, Kathryn M.E. & Hashimoto, Yuko & Ito, Takatoshi, 2012. "International reserves and the global financial crisis," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(2), pages 388-406.
  21. Aizenman, Joshua & Marion, Nancy P., 2003. "International Reserve Holdings with Sovereign Risk and Costly Tax Collection," Santa Cruz Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt9s7978n1, Department of Economics, UC Santa Cruz.
  22. Dickey, David A & Fuller, Wayne A, 1981. "Likelihood Ratio Statistics for Autoregressive Time Series with a Unit Root," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 49(4), pages 1057-72, June.
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