Big anomalies in September’s Swiss gold exports

Here follows a lightly edited and updated version of an article first published yesterday on the Sharps Pixley website looking at some unusual export data for gold from Switzerland in September.  Switzerland is a key conduit for the transfer of gold bullion from West to East as being the location for a number of refineries which specialise in taking Western gold bars and dore bullion from mines and re-refining this to the smaller sized ultra high quality gold bars and wafers in demand in Asia and the Middle East:

Switzerland has announced its gold imports and exports for September and while imports are from the usual suspects there are some important anomalies from the normal pattern in the country’s September gold export figures.

Imports totalling around 177.8 tonnes largely came from the UK (91.8 tonnes – or a little over half the total) and the USA (33.1 tonnes) neither being abnormal numbers, with the UK being the centre of the global gold trade and the USA being the world’s fourth largest gold producer. The balance came from relatively small amounts mostly from other gold producing nations.

The real surprises came in the gold export recipients. Mainland China topped the list comfortably with 37.5 tonnes out of total gold exports for the month of 119.4 tonnes but the HUGE surprise in the figures was that during September Switzerland, apparently, according to the figures we were presented with initially, exported zero gold to both India and Hong Kong,  We were however fed incorrect data and now we have updated figures which corrects the anomalies.  The initial figures were indeed  erroneous.  In fact exports to India were down very substantially to 16.6 tonnes but Hong Kong still took a respectable 28.9 tonnes.  A graphic of the real figures is shown below:

However, some other Swiss gold recipients in September are indeed really anomalous as they also usually fall outside the country’s normal gold export listings; notably Hungary which imported 28.9 tonnes as it increased its central bank holdings tenfold (see: Central Bank gold buying – New kids on the block), although Hungary reported this as occurring in the first two weeks of October, but it apparently entered the Swiss export figures in the earlier month. Other big unusual importers were Indonesia (with 16.6 tonnes), the African nations of Ghana (5.2 tonnes), Gabon (4.8 tonnes) and Senegal (2.6 tonnes), while among the normal Swiss gold recipients Thailand (7.7 tonnes), Saudi Arabia (2.6 tonnes) and Taiwan (2.5 tonnes) absorbed larger amounts than normal.

It remains to be seen whether some, or all, of these were adding, like Hungary, to their official gold reserves. If they are this should become apparent when the IMF publishes its next table of changes in world gold reserves which is always available in the data section of the World Gold Council’s website (

Interestingly the gold price soared yesterday reaching $1,240.80 at one time up from $1,221.70 when the U.S. market closed a day earlier. This may also have been prompted by a big plunge in general equity markets with Asian, European and North American markets all losing substantial ground.  They do seem to be picking up a little today, albeit nervously (the Hang Seng continued to fall and Germany’s DAX is down a little as I write)  but it remains to be seen if the apparent rise is just a temporary bounce and if there is further carnage to come.

The dollar index has also picked up a little today which could mitigate further rises in the gold price – at least temporarily

Is the oft-predicted plunge in equity prices beginning – and if so are we seeing a move into gold as a safe haven? The dollar index also appears to be slipping a little and we again saw inflows into the big gold and silver ETFs. Perhaps precious metals are coming back into favour again?

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