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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. Gourinchas, Pierre-Olivier & Rey, Hélène, 2005. "From World Banker to World Venture Capitalist: US External Adjustment and the Exorbitant Privilege," CEPREMAP Working Papers (Docweb) 0606, CEPREMAP.
  2. Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas & Hélène Rey, 2005. "International financial adjustment," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  3. Aizenman, Joshua & Inoue, Kenta, 2013. "Central banks and gold puzzles," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 28(C), pages 69-90.
  4. Pablo García & Claudio Soto, 2004. "Large Hoardings of International Reserves: Are They Worth It?," Working Papers Central Bank of Chile 299, Central Bank of Chile.
  5. Dani Rodrik, 2006. "The social cost of foreign exchange reserves," International Economic Journal, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 20(3), pages 253-266.
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  7. Joshua Aizenman & Reuven Glick, 2008. "Sovereign wealth funds: stylized facts about their determinants and governance," Working Paper Series 2008-33, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  8. Yin-Wong Cheung & Hiro Ito, 2009. "A Cross-Country Empirical Analysis of International Reserves," CESifo Working Paper Series 2654, CESifo Group Munich.
  9. 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.
  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.
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  16. Joshua Aizenman & Jaewoo Lee, 2005. "International Reserves: Precautionary versus Mercantilist Views, Theory and Evidence," NBER Working Papers 11366, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2010. "From Financial Crash to Debt Crisis," NBER Working Papers 15795, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Richard H. Clarida, 2007. "G7 Current Account Imbalances: Sustainability and Adjustment," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number clar06-2, October.
  19. 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.
  20. Guillermo A. Calvo & Carmen M. Reinhart, 2000. "Fear of Floating," NBER Working Papers 7993, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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