Research & Insights #45

Central bank gold rush continues into 2023

According to the World Gold Council, annual gold demand (excluding OTC) reached 4,448 tonnes in 2023, down just 5% on a particularly strong 2022. Global gold ETFs saw their third consecutive annual outflow, losing 244 tonnes. Taking into account demand from OTC markets and other less transparent sources, total demand is estimated to have reached a new annual record of 4,899 tonnes. Since the G7 countries froze part of the Bank of Russia’s foreign exchange reserves in 2022, purchases of the yellow metal by central banks around the world have increased at a steady pace. They bought 1,037 tonnes in 2023, 45 tonnes less than the 2022 record. Mine production remained relatively stable in 2023, up 1%, while recycling increased by 9%, leading to a 3% rise in total supply. Despite the Fed’s rate hike cycle, gold ended 2023 up 15% at US$ 2,078.4 an ounce.

Sweden closes NordStream investigation

The Swedish Public Prosecutor’s Office has announced that it is closing its investigation into the sabotage of the Nord Stream gas pipelines. It considers that the case does not fall within its competence and will not be pursued. The destruction of the NordStream gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea represents the greatest act of war against the European Union since its creation, with far-reaching consequences for its energy security and the prosperity of Europeans. On February 8, 2023, American investigative journalist Seymour Hersh published an article in which he claimed that US Navy divers had placed explosive devices under the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines whilst participating in the BALTOPS exercise in June 2022. According to Hersch, the Norwegians activated the bombs three months later.

Russian banks post record profits despite Western sanctions

According to the Central Bank of Russia, Russian banks ended 2023 with record profits of 3.3 trillion rubles (US$ 33.3 billion), up 50% on 2021, the last year of normal operations. These positive results, which reflect the resilience of the economy despite Western sanctions, are due to the boom in state-subsidised mortgages, as well as increased financing for the purchase of assets sold by Western companies leaving the country. Mortgage lending rose by 34.5% year-on-year, thanks to a generous government stimulus package designed to boost consumer demand. Subsidised mortgages accounted for more than half of new home loans. These mortgages are used by the state to indirectly support the banking sector, the construction industry and thus, indirectly, the economy.

Journalist Tucker Carlson interviewed Vladimir Putin

On February 8, President Vladimir Putin was interviewed by American TV host Tucker Carlson (transcripts). This is the first interview given to an American journalist since the outbreak of war in Ukraine nearly two years ago. Carlson said that it would enable Americans to understand Russia’s view of the war. “We are not here because we love Vladimir Putin….We are not encouraging you to agree with what Putin may say in this interview, but we are urging you to watch it. You should know as much as you can,” he said. Much of the two-hour conversation was devoted to the Ukrainian conflict, and Russia’s relations with the USA, NATO and the West in general. In the first 24 hours, the interview was viewed over 150 million times on the X platform alone.

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