Russia is dumping US debt and buying gold instead

President Donald Trump with Russian President Vladimir Putin last year.

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President Donald Trump with Russian President Vladimir Putin last year.
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MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/Getty Images

  • Russian ownership of US Treasury bonds dropped from $96.1 billion in March to an 11-year low of $14.9 billion in May, the latest Treasury figures show.
  • The Treasury on Tuesday released a list of the top 33 national investors in its bonds. Russia, once in the top 10, was absent.
  • Elvira Nabiullina, the head of the Central Bank of Russia, reportedly said cutting the stake was the result of an assessment of financial, economic, and geopolitical risks.
  • Russia has been buying gold as it sells off US bonds, recently overtaking China as the world’s biggest holder of gold, with $80.5 billion worth.

Russia has sharply reduced its holdings of United States Treasury bonds, with Russian ownership recently moving to an 11-year low.

Russia’s ownership of US bonds declined from $96.1 billion in March to $48.7 billion in April and then to just $14.9 billion in May, the most recent data available, the Russian news website RT and the finance blog Wolf Street reported this week.

On Tuesday, the US Treasury released a list of the top 33 investors in US debt. Russia was among the top 10 in 2010 with ownership of $176.3 billion but in May ranked below Chile. The country began unloading its US debt as President Barack Obama raised sanctions against Russia in 2011 and has since intensified its efforts.

Elvira Nabiullina, the head of the Central Bank of Russia, said the reduction was due to an assessment of financial, economic, and geopolitical risks, RT reported. Nabiullina said the gold purchases were helping to diversify Russia’s wealth.

Padhraic Garvey, the global head of debt and rates strategy at ING, said that for Russia it was like “moving from a safe asset to an ultra-safe asset.”

Russia has been buying large amounts of gold as it continues to sell US Treasury bonds, recently overtaking China as the world’s biggest holder with $80.5 billion worth, according to Russia’s central bank.

China held $1.2 trillion of US debt in May, the most of any foreign country.

Turkey nearly halved its US debt holdings to $32.6 billion in May from $62 billion in 2017. Germany’s position stood at $78.3 billion.

The US currency has come under increasing pressure in 2018 as US debt mounts.