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Germany’s prized playwright Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote in his most famous play Faust: “To gold cling all”.
The Bundesbank has taken those words to heart and is nearing the end of a five-year exercise to shift half of Germany’s gold reserves back to Frankfurt.
Over the course of 2016, the German central bank moved 111 tonnes of the precious metal over the Atlantic ocean from the vaults of the New York Federal Reserve to its buildings in the eurozone’s financial capital. It moved another 105 tonnes from the Banque de France in Paris.
The steady acceleration from 2015 and 2014 levels means the Bundesbank is on target to complete the operation at the end of this year.
For obvious reasons, the bank will say little about how the gold is transported. But we do know the operation has cost €6.9m to date. The Bundesbank estimates it will spend another €500,000 to complete the exercise.
The Bundesbank has long kept the bulk of its gold outside of Germany. In 2012, 69 per cent was stored on foreign soil. The bulk of its gold holdings were built up in the post-war era, when the global economy operated under the Bretton Woods monetary system, where trade surpluses were exchanged for gold until the 1970s.
In 2015, the Bundesbank released a 2,300 inventory of every single bar of gold it owned in the vaults of Frankfurt, Paris, New York and London.