In a surprising announcement on Friday morning, the European Central Bank said the 21 signatories of the 4th Central Bank Gold Agreement (CBGA) “no longer see the need for formal agreement” as the market has developed and matured, and as a result the signatories “decided not to renew the Agreement upon its expiry in September 2019.”
For readers unfamiliar, the first CBGA was signed in 1999 to coordinate planned gold sales by the various central banks. When it was introduced, the ECB notes that “the Agreement contributed to balanced conditions in the gold market by providing transparency regarding the intentions of the signatories. It was renewed three times in 2004, 2009 and 2014, gradually moving towards less stringent terms.”
The fourth CBGA, which expires on 26 September 2019, was signed by the ECB, the Nationale Bank van België/Banque Nationale de Belgique, the Deutsche Bundesbank, Eesti Pank, the Central Bank of Ireland, the Bank of Greece, the Banco de España, the Banque de France, the Banca d’Italia, the Central Bank of Cyprus, Latvijas Banka, Lietuvos bankas, the Banque centrale du Luxembourg, the Central Bank of Malta, De Nederlandsche Bank, the Oesterreichische Nationalbank, the Banco de Portugal, Banka Slovenije, Národná banka Slovenska, Suomen Pankki – Finlands Bank, Sveriges Riksbank and the Swiss National Bank.
The simplest reason why the agreement is no longer needed, is that whereas central banks used to sell gold in the 1990s and early 2000s, most famously the UK’s sale of 401 tonnes of gold of its total 715 tonne holdings under Gordon Brown, broadly seen as one of the “worst investment decisions of all time“, currently they are buying at an unprecedented pace, and in 2018, central bank gold demand was the highest in the “modern” era, or since Nixon closed the gold window in 1971.
More recent data shows that gold buying by central banks in 2019 has persisted and remains the highest in years, with no central bank buying more than Russia, which after dumping most of its US Treasury holdings in 2018, has continued to aggressively convert its foreign reserves into the precious metal.
As a result of a shift in official institutional sentiment from selling to buying,