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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 & Inoue, Kenta, 2013. "Central banks and gold puzzles," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 28(C), pages 69-90.
  2. Maurice Obstfeld & Jay C. Shambaugh & Alan M. Taylor, 2010. "Financial Stability, the Trilemma, and International Reserves," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(2), pages 57-94, April.
  3. Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas & Hélène Rey, 2005. "International Financial Adjustment," International Finance 0505004, EconWPA.
  4. Aizenman, Joshua & Marion, Nancy, 2003. "The high demand for international reserves in the Far East: What is going on?," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 17(3), pages 370-400, September.
  5. 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.
  6. Dani Rodrik, 2006. "The Social Cost of Foreign Exchange Reserves," Working Papers id:357, eSocialSciences.
  7. 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.
  8. Aizenman, Joshua & LEE, JAEWOO, 2005. "International Reserves: Precautionary versus Mercantilist Views, Theory and Evidence," Santa Cruz Center for International Economics, Working Paper Series qt44g3n2j8, Center for International Economics, UC Santa Cruz.
  9. Reinhart, Carmen & Calvo, Guillermo, 2002. "Fear of floating," MPRA Paper 14000, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  10. Kathryn M.E. Dominguez & Yuko Hashimoto & Takatoshi Ito, 2011. "International Reserves and the Global Financial Crisis," NBER Working Papers 17362, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Joshua Aizenman & Reuven Glick, 2009. "Sovereign Wealth Funds: Stylized Facts about their Determinants and Governance," International Finance, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 12(3), pages 351-386, December.
  12. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2011. "From Financial Crash to Debt Crisis," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(5), pages 1676-1706, August.
  13. 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.
  14. Richard H. Clarida, 2007. "G7 Current Account Imbalances: Sustainability and Adjustment," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number clar06-2, 07.
  15. Yin-Wong Cheung & Hiro Ito, 2009. "A Cross-Country Empirical Analysis of International Reserves," International Economic Journal, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 23(4), pages 447-481.
  16. Dirk G. Baur & Thomas K. McDermott, . "Is gold a safe haven? International evidence," The Institute for International Integration Studies Discussion Paper Series iiisdp310, IIIS.
  17. 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.
  18. Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas & Hélène Rey, 2005. "From World Banker to World Venture Capitalist: US External Adjustment and the Exorbitant Privilege," NBER Working Papers 11563, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  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. Joshua Aizenman & Menzie D. Chinn & Hiro Ito, 2010. "Surfing the Waves of Globalization: Asia and Financial Globalization in the Context of the Trilemma," NBER Working Papers 15876, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  21. 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.
  22. 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.
  23. Arellano, Manuel, 2003. "Panel Data Econometrics," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199245291, March.
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