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Story [ 19.08.2002 09:23:47 ]


World Gold Council sees Asia cen banks as buyers
SINGAPORE, Aug 19 (Reuters) - Asia`s reserve-rich central
banks are potential buyers of gold to diversify their reserve
assets, even as European central banks cut their holdings, a
senior official of the World Gold Council said on Monday.
"Gold is back on the radar screens," said Ralston Thiedeman,
head of the council`s Asia-Pacific official sector, told
reporters at the start of a five-day seminar on reserves
management, which the council is co-hosting.
"In the last six to 12 months, central banks in Asia have
become far more receptive to talk about gold than they were say a
couple of years back," he said.
Asia holds over half of the world`s near $2.0 trillion of
foreign exchange reserves -- and it is mostly held in low-yield
U.S. dollar assets, and generally less than five percent in gold.
Gold prices have risen over 10 percent this year, although
bullion has come off its $330 an ounce high reached in June,
which was its highest since October 1999.
Thiedeman said volatility in global financial markets, a
weakening U.S. dollar and low U.S. interest rates were reasons
for Asian central banks to diversify their portfolios.
Council statistics, which are based on the market price for
gold, showed South Korea held just 0.1 percent of its reserves in
gold, compared to over 55 percent in the United States and 35-40
percent in Europe.
Pakistan and the Philippines hold around 15 percent of their
reserves in gold, and Thiedeman said while the Bank of China has
raised its gold holdings -- to 500 tonnes earlier this year from
395 tonnes a year ago -- they are still a low proportion, about
two percent, of its reserves.
Thiedeman did not give a direct answer when asked if he
expected Asia central banks to pick up the gold being sold by
their European counterparts.
Under the Washington Agreement on Gold, signed in 1999 and
running until 2004, 15 European central banks agreed to limit
their gold sales to a total of 2,000 tonnes over the five years.
Industry analysts expect higher bullion sales from European
central banks after the agreement expires.
Thiedeman said there was a general consensus among European
banks that the agreement would be renewed with a new format and
membership would be widened.
((Asia Treasury Desk (65) 6870-3841;fax (65) 6870-3787;
email:ovais.subhani@reuters.com))


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