There are rumors doing the rounds that Russia is selling gold. My first reaction to this news was that is contradictory to what Putin stands for. Russia has been the most openly aggressive buyer of gold in the past years and Putin never made it a secret he wants to move away from the US dollar as the world reserve currency – gold potentially playing a role in a new monetary order. The last thing Russia wants to do is sell the asset they have demonstrated to value the most. Besides, the Russian central bank (CBR) also has other FX reserves that it could sell to support the Ruble, if it wants to intervene.
The rumors about Russia selling gold were spread by Yahoo, Business Insider, and Zero Hedge/SocGen. Two other bloggers already did the debunking for us; Market Update wrote about Yahoo’s article and Bron Suchecki just published a must read on Zero Hedge/SocGen/Business Insider.
The final confirmation came from Vladimir himself. Yesterday the President of Russia gave his yearly press conference. When journalist Vyacheslav Terekhov (Interfax) asked about the crisis Russia currently is in, Putin made a clear statement:
VYACHESLAV TEREKHOV: There is something I would like to clarify, Mr President. Judging by the situation in the country, we are in the midst of a deep currency crisis, one that even Central Bank employees say they could not have foreseen in their worst nightmares.
Do you believe that things will get better in two years, as you mentioned, and we will recover from this financial and economic crisis? Criticism was piled on the Government and the Central Bank for the ruble’s Black Monday and Tuesday. Do you agree with this criticism?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: I said that given the most unfavourable foreign economic situation this could last (approximately, because no one can say for certain) for about two years. However, it may not last that long and the situation could take a turn for the better sooner. It could improve in the first or second quarter of next year, by the middle of next year, or by its end
…Overall, I think it is up to the Central Bank to decide whether to reduce the interest rate or not, they should see and react accordingly. They should not hand out our gold and foreign currency reserves or burn them on the market, but provide lending resources.
UPDATE 1:59 PM CET. The CBR just disclosed it has purchased 18 tonnes of gold in November. The total Russian official gold reserves accounted for 1,188 tonnes on December 1, 2014.