Canada Says Farewell to Gold
One upon a time most currencies were backed by gold. But in 1971 president Richard Nixon took the U.S. off the gold standard switching to a floating currency instead so its Central Bank can exert more influence over the currency, and other countries followed suit. Today, everyone uses fiat currency and gold is no longer relevant on the world’s financial stage.
Canada use to have more than 1,000 tons of gold in the 1960’s as part of our foreign exchange reserves. But Ottawa has long forsaken the notion that gold can be a useful diversification tool for a country’s monetary interest. For decades Canada has been slowly selling off its gold reserves, and according to the Finance Department, it only has 77 ounces of gold coins remaining today, which is worth about US $100,000. That’s nothing more than a rounding error compared to the US $80,000,000,000 of total foreign exchange reserves we have.
As Canada gets out of the gold game, others are buying more. According to the World Gold Council, central banks around the world added a net of 336 tons to their reserves in the second half of 2015, representing a 25% increase from the previous year. Russia and India have increased their holdings. And since the start of this century China has bolstered its gold reserves by 350% from 400 tons in 2000 to nearly 1,800 tons today. Even individual investors have helped take gold off the Bank of Canada’s hands. A couple years ago I blogged about buying a 1 ounce limited edition gold coin for CAD $1,389. It’s easily worth 20% more today given the current spot price of gold. 🙂
Here’s a look at the biggest holders of gold by country. (source)
Based on the chart above, we can see that the U.S. central bank holds the most gold by a wide margin. The 8,133 tons of gold held by the U.S. make up 72% of its foreign exchange reserves. The next 3 countries in the list, Germany, Italy, and France also holds more than half of their reserves in gold.
It’s interesting how other central banks seem to be holding or even increasing their gold reserves while Canada has done the exact opposite, lol. I’ll write about the possible reasoning behind these two diverging ideologies around gold in a future post, but it has to do with the nature and purpose of Foreign Exchange Reserves, which requires a rather lengthy explanation.