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Greece Selling Gold Supply?

Angelo Cavalli | Photodisc | Getty Images

Gold and central banks: not as easy as you might think to sell. There's been some speculation recently that should Greek anti-bailout parties win on Sunday's elections and Greece ultimately leaves the euro, the Greek Central Bank might be forced to sell its gold supplies to raise cash.

This is one of those trading ideas that float around that sounds plausible, but it's not. It's not possible for Greece to just go out and dump its gold supply.

First, selling gold to fund government borrowing is specifically prohibited by the Maastricht Treaty that created the European Union.

Second, Greece is a signatory to the Central Bank Gold Agreement (CBGA), which restricts how much gold can be sold at any one time by central banks.

Here's a list of the biggest central bank holders of gold, in metric tons (a metric ton is 2,204 pounds). Greece is the 32nd largest holder of gold, with about 111 tons.

Agreements aside, it's not a lot of money: at the current price of a little over $1,600 an ounce, 111 tons is about $6.4 billion. Not a lot for a country with $400 billion in sovereign debt.

Biggest central bank holders of gold, in metric tons:

1. U.S. 8,133

2. Germany 3,396

3. IMF 2,814

4. Italy 2,451

5. France 2,435

6. China 1,054

7. Switzerland 1,040

8. Russia 895

9. Japan 765

10. Netherlands 612

…32. Greece 111

Source: World Gold Council/IMF

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  • A CNBC reporter since 1990, Bob Pisani covers Wall Street from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

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