In economic hardship, Russia buys gold

The transaction is discreet and fits into a typical pattern of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s global strategy. Financial difficulties following the conflict in Ukraine and western sanctions have weakened the Russian economy. Plummeting oil prices that stabilized around $75/78 a barrel remain very low compared to Russia’s fiscal sustainability threshold estimated at approximately $101/103. The national currency, the ruble (RUB), lost nearly 30% of its value in US dollars (USD) YTD and there has been growing rumors about ruble’s possible non-convertibility in USD, a hypothesis that would bring catastrophic consequences. With a view to diversifying and maintaining the value of its assets, Russia amounted to more than half of central banks’ purchases of gold (55 of about 96 metrics tons) in the third quarter of 2014 according to a report by the World Gold Council. In all, more than 150 tons were purchased by Russia YTD. Russia’s international reserves currently stand at $421.4 billion, down 8% in just one month.