In January of 2016, the Bundesbank announced that three years after commencing the transfer of some of its offshore-held gold from vaults located at the Banque de France in Paris and the NY Fed in New York, it had repatriated a total of 366.3 tonnes, bringing the German central bank's gold reserves held in Frankfurt to 1,402 tonnes, or 41.5% of Germany's total gold of 3,381 tonnes, for the first time greater than the 1.347 thousand tonnes located at the New York Fed, which as of January 27, 2016 held 39.9% of Germany's official gold.
"With approximately 1,403 tonnes of gold, Frankfurt has been our largest storage location, ahead of New York, since the end of last year," said Carl-Ludwig Thiele, Member of the Executive Board of the Deutsche Bundesbank. "The transfers are proceeding smoothly. We have succeeded in once again significantly increasing the transport volume compared with 2014. This means that operations are running very much according to schedule," added Thiele last January.
As a reminder, according to its gold storage plan, unveiled in January 2013, the Bundesbank would store half of Germany's gold reserves in its own vaults in Frankfurt am Main by 2020 which would necessitate a transfer to Frankfurt of 300 tonnes of gold from New York and all 374 tonnes of gold from Paris. It also meant that as of January, another 111 tonnes of gold from the NY Fed and 196.4 tonnes of gold from Paris remained to be transfered.
The "politically correct" motives for the transfer, as well as the logistics and the mechanics behind it were explained in a March 2015 video released by the Bundesbank...
... the real reasons, however, is that following several reports on this website which cast doubts on Germany's gold holdings, in late 2012 the German Court of Auditors demanded that the Bundesbank undertake an audit of its gold reserves. Specifically, the court wanted to ensure that the nearly 3400 tons of gold, of which more than 2,000 tonnes held offshore, is in fact in existence - 'because stocks have never been checked for authenticity and weight'. The move to repatriate was only accelerate following rumors that much of the offshore-held gold might have been "rehypothecated", and not be there anymore, that it might have been melted down, leased, or sold.
Ironically, at the time, Bundesbank Board member Carl-Ludwig Thiele told the Handelsblatt that these moves were a “trust-building” measure, and he tried vigorously to put the rumors about the missing gold to rest. Of course, repatriating your gold from foreign central banks is precisely the opposite of a "demonstration of confidence."
What made matters worse is that at the end of 2013, the Bundesbank announced it had managed to repatriate only 37 tonnes of the total 700 scheduled for redemption, further spooking the local population and suggesting that conspiracy theories that the gold was missing were in fact accurate.
As a result, following blowback from both the media and the public, the Bundesbank accelerated its activity, and repatriated 120 tonnes in 2014 and another 210 in 2015, implying that the Bundesbank's faith in its foreign central bank peers had declined in inverse proportion to the following accelerated redemption schedule as of January 2016.
Almost one year later, last Friday, Germany's Bild reported that in 2016 the Bundesbank has repatriated "more of its gold than planned", as it moves toward relocating half of the world's second-largest reserve at home.
"We brought back significantly more gold to Germany in 2016 again than initially planned. By now, almost half of the gold reserves are in Germany," Bube president Jens Weidmann told the German publication.
As Reuters added, in the wake of the European financial crisis, many ordinary Germans have demanded to see more of the 3,381 tonnes of gold in vaults at home. "Some had even questioned whether it still exists, prompting the Bundesbank to publish a long list of details on the gold holdings in 2015."
According to Bild, around 1,600 tonnes of Germany's gold reserves are now in the country, a figure set to rise to 1,700 tonnes by 2020.
This means that the Bundesbank repatriated roughly 200 tonnes of gold in 2016, comparable to the 210 tonnes its brought back to Frankfurt in 2015, and the total held domestically amounts to 1,600 tonnes at the end of 2016, just shy of the 1,700 or so planned to be repatriated over the next three years, suggesting that for some unknown reason, the German central bank has aggressively pushed forward the redemption timetable ahead of its scheduled completion in 2020.
Neither Bild, nor Weidmann, explained why after initially dragging its feet on gold relocation in 2013, over the past two years the German central bank has demonstrated a curious sense of urgency in repatriating its gold. In any case, we are confident that the German population will be happy to learn that nearly half of its gold is now on domestic soil, just in time for the holidays.