World Gold Council – Market primer: central banks

Gold plays a prominent role in reserve asset management, being one of the few assets that is universally permitted by the investment guidelines of the world’s central banks. This is in part due to the gold market being deep and liquid – a key requirement of reserve asset managers.

This primer serves as an introduction to global official gold reserves and demand from central banks. It provides an overview of the level of gold held by these institutions; the drivers of demand; how demand has changed since 2009; and how demand may evolve in the future.


• Globally, central banks and supranational organisations – such as the International Monetary Fund and the Bank of International Settlements – currently hold almost 34,000 tonnes of gold as reserve assets (17% of total aboveground stocks).

• While safety and liquidity are paramount for reserve managers, returns are important too: gold has provided an average annual return of nearly 10% in US dollars since 1971.

• Central banks may base their investment strategy on numerous factors, but the primary reasons for recent gold buying are: heightened economic and political risks, low and negative interest rates, and allocation rebalancing.

Download central banks market primer

Explore our other market primers

Our market primers are a vital resource for anyone looking for more information on the structure and mechanics of the gold market. Packed with useful facts and statistics, each of these brief but comprehensive primers gives an overview of a specific area of the gold market.

• China’s gold market
• Gold prices
• Mine production
• Gold-backed ETFs
• Recycling

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