Singapore’s central bank MAS boosts gold reserves to nearly 200 tonnes
In January 2023, Singapore’s central bank, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) returned to gold buying again, adding a massive 44.6 tonnes of gold to its official reserves, and thereby boosting Singapore’s gold holdings from 153.8 tonnes to 198.4 tonnes.
In percentage terms, this gold buying represents an incredible 29% increase in Singapore’s gold holdings in just one month. In fact, this is Singapore’s second largest largest gold purchase ever in one month, the only gold purchase that was larger was when Singapore first bought 100 tonnes of gold from South Africa in 1968.
In typically discreet fashion, MAS did not announce its recent gold buying via press release or via any other publicity. It merely updated the data on its website in the latest version (end of January) of a monthly report called ‘International Reserves and Foreign Currency Liquidity’.
Looking at the December 2022 version of this report shows that the reserve asset of “Gold (including gold deposits and, if appropriate, gold swapped)” showed a volume in fine troy ounces of 4,943,441 ozs for December 2022.
Then when the January 2023 version of the report was published at the end of February, it now shows a volume in fine troy ounces for gold of 6,378,041 ozs. That’s an increase of 1,434,600 ozs, or 44.62 tonnes. And in percentage terms, a 29.02% increase.
71 tonnes in less than 2 Years
This is the second major gold buying spree by Singapore’s MAS in less than 2 years. The last time Singapore added to its monetary gold reserves was over a 2-month period between May and June 2021, when it bought 26.35 tonnes of gold over the two months, of which 16.4 tonnes was in May 2021 and 9.95 tonnes in June 2021. Those additions took Singapore’s gold holdings from 127.42 tonnes to 153.76 tonnes.
Prior to May-June 2021, Singapore had held 127.42 tonnes of gold, a figure which had not changed since at least 2002 (as far back as World Gold Council records go). 100 tonnes of this total had been purchased by Singapore in one transaction in 1968 (while attending a World Bank meeting in Washington D.C), and the other 27.42 tonnes was added at other undefined times between after 1968 but before 2002.
Singapore’s central bank (MAS) purchased a massive 44.6 tonnes of gold during January 2023, taking its total gold holdings from 153.7 tonnes to 198.3 tonnes. Link below https://t.co/TbXgsjTesz
— BullionStar (@BullionStar) March 6, 2023
In the modern era, the latest gold buying by MAS means that in just 20 months since May 2021, Singapore has added made substantial gold purchases on three occasions (May 2021, June 2021 and January 2023), adding a total of 71 tonnes of gold to its reserves.
The May-June 2021 gold purchases by MAS were also very low key, and although they were added to the MAS ‘International Reserves and Foreign Currency Liquidity’ reports in June and July 2021, respectively, no one noticed these updates until the data was also updated onto the IMF’s International Financial Statistics (IFS) database in November 2021. See BullionStar article “In low key move, Singapore’s central bank adds 26 tonnes to its gold reserves”, dated 27 November 2021 for details.
Average Buying Price of US$ 1912
In a footnote to its ‘International Reserves and Foreign Currency Liquidity’. MAS states that the values of its ‘Official reserve assets and other foreign currency assets’ are stated as ‘Book value of assets converted at market exchange rates prevailing at end of month.”
This usage of book value valuation is actually quite handy as it allows up to roughly calculate what price MAS paid for the new 44.6 tonnes of gold.
As of end of December 2022, the 4,943,411 ozs of gold held by MAS was valued at a combined US$ 1.7945 billion.
As of the end of January 2023, the 6,378,041 ozs of gold held by MAS was valued at a combined US $ 4.5384 billion.
This means that the new 1,434,600 ozs of gold bought by MAS in January was valued at a book value of US$ 2.7439 billion, which is an average purchase price of US$ 1912.66. This price is in line with gold prices during January 2023, where the gold price began the year in the US$ 1800s, but rose to above US$ 1900 on 13 January and then stayed in the US$ 1910-1930 range for the rest of the month.
The average LBMA PM closing gold price in January 2023 was US$ 1898.62. The max close was US$ 1932.45 on 26 January, the min close was US$ 1834 on 5 January. MAS therefore appears to have made its recent gold purchases mostly during the second half of January 2023.
On a book value basis, the addition of 44.6 tonnes of gold also means that Singapore’s total gold reserves now constitute 1.56% of its official reserve assets, up from 0.62% of official reserve assets at the end of December.
For such a massive central bank gold buying event, this latest purchase of 44.6 tonnes of gold by Singapore during January has had almost no coverage in the mainstream financial media.
This is despite Singapore’s purchase, at 44.6 tonnes, being the biggest single central bank gold purchase of 2023, and despite it also being more than the total gold holding additions which China claims to have made over both January and February (39.8 tonnes in total).
The MAS January gold purchase, which boosts Singapore’s gold holdings up to 198.4 tonnes, also shoots Singapore 3 places higher in the rankings of ‘World Official Gold Holdings by Country’, and Singapore now sits in 26th position, behind Belgium which claims to hold (227.4 tonnes of gold), and Algeria (which claims to hold 173.6 tonnes of gold.
The 2022 edition of the World Gold Council’s central bank gold reserve survey found that central banks hold gold for a number of reasons, chief among then that gold “performs during times of crisis“, gold is “a long-term store of value“, gold “has no default risk“, and gold is “an effective portfolio diversifier“.
MAS annual reports say very little about gold, except that gold “is held as a long-term investment“.
As to where Singapore’s 198.4 tonnes of gold is stored, that is the billion dollar question. There is no mention at all in the annual reports or financial statements of where MAS claims that Singapore’s gold is being vaulted.
It’s probable that a portion of Singapore’s gold is stored in the vaults of the Bank of England in London, and possibly another part is stored in Switzerland under the custody of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) – which uses vaults of the Swiss National Bank.
There have been rumours that some of Singapore’s national gold reserves are also held in secret subterranean vaults in Singapore guarded by legendary Gurkhas of the Singapore Police Force’s Gurkha Contingent. As to how true these rumours are, one would have to ask Singapore’s MAS, and MAS would most likely, politely decline to say.
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