(adds details, analysis, market reaction, background)
WASHINGTON, Sept 9 (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund said on Thursday it sold 10 metric tonnes of gold to the central bank of Bangladesh on Sept. 7, using Tuesday’s market prices for the transaction.
The IMF said the sale raised $403 million, adding that it was part of 403.3 tonnes approved for sale by its executive board in September 2009.
The sales are part of plans adopted last year to diversify the fund’s sources of income and to increase low-cost lending to poor countries by up to $17 billion through 2014.
The IMF fund has already sold 212 tons of gold to the Reserve Bank of India, the Bank of Mauritius and the central bank of Sri Lanka, all in November last year.
Thursday’s sale is the first to a central bank since last November’s sales.
In a statement, the IMF said that at the end of July a further 88.3 tonnes had been sold through on-market sales that it announced in February.
An uncertain outlook for two of the world’s major reserve currencies —the dollar and the euro — is seen providing a spur for central banks to buy gold.
Earlier this year there were reports China was prepared to buy gold from the IMF, though those reports were disavowed.
While Thursday’s sale was modest in size, it drew attention in markets.
“It’s only 321,000 ounces, the equivalent of 3,000 COMEX contracts,” said Frank McGhee, head precious metals trader at Integrated Brokerage Services LLC in Chicago. “But it can, in general, indicate that the Asian central banks continue to buy and add gold into their reserves, which over the long term is a very healthy thing (for gold).”
More than 120,000 contracts traded on Thursday, making the IMF sale less than 3 percent of a relatively light trading day on the COMEX exchange in New York.
Asian banks’ interest in having gold holdings in their reserves offers support for the precious metal’s price and may increase as the region’s economic might grows.
“They prefer to buy on a break lower, but as the power continues to shift east, they continue to buy it and gold continues to head up over the long term,” McGhee noted.
In after-hours trade following the IMF news, U.S. benchmark gold futures GCZ0 trimmed earlier losses to $1,245.90 an ounce on the COMEX division of the NYMEX.
A day earlier, gold futures had ran up to their highest level since June 28 at $1,264.70 an ounce, nearing the all-time high for the spot contract at $1,264.80, hit on June 21.
(additional reporting by Carole Vaporean in New York)
Reporting by Glenn Somerville; Editing by Andrew Hay