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Central banks buy most gold since 1971: industry body

[LONDON] Central banks have bought the most gold in nearly 50 years as the precious metal profits from its safehaven status, the World Gold Council said Thursday, amid trade tensions and Brexit uncertainty.

The banks added 651.5 tonnes to official gold reserves in 2018, up 74 per cent on a year earlier and the second highest annual total on record, the WGC said in its Gold Demand Trends report.

Total gold demand reached 4,345.1 tonnes, up 4.0 per cent on 2017, also on worries about a global economic growth slowdown.

"The annual increase was driven by a multi-decade high in central bank buying and accelerated investment in bars and coins during the second half of the year," the WGC said, when US-China trade war tensions and Brexit uncertainty caused volatility across financial markets.

The WGC on Thursday said that global bar and coin demand rose 4.0 percent to 1,090 tonnes in 2018.

In the UK, bar and coin investment jumped 12 per cent to 11.6 tonnes "as investors looked ahead to 29 March 2019 - the day the UK is due to leave the EU - with a sense of trepidation", it said.

Bar and coin demand in Europe as a whole slid 11 per cent in 2018.

Alistair Hewitt, head of market intelligence at the WGC, said that "worries about a slowdown in global growth, heightened geopolitical tensions, and financial market volatility saw central bank demand hit its highest level since... 1971".