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Russia sells gold and yuan from its National Wealth Fund to finance budget deficit

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(Kitco News) Russia's central bank sold four tonnes of gold and 2.59 billion yuan (USD$365 million) from the National Wealth Fund (NWF) accounts to raise additional money to finance the budget deficit, according to the Finance Ministry.

The sale took place in May and helped allocate 48.97 billion rubles (USD$606 million) to fund the deficit.

"In May 2023 … a portion of NWF money at accounts with the Bank of Russia totaling 2.59 bln yuan and 3.86 metric tons of gold in the depersonalized form were sold at 48.967 bln rubles. The money earned was credited at the integrated federal budget account to finance its deficit," the ministry said.

Russia reported a 3.4 trillion-rouble (USD$42 billion) deficit in the first four months of the year, citing lower energy revenues.

The Finance Ministry blamed May's low oil and gas revenues for the deficit, which fell 36% from the same period last year. In May, oil and gas revenues were 30.6 billion roubles (USD$379 million) below expectations. In June, the ministry expects a 44-billion-rouble shortfall (USD$545 million) from federal energy revenues.

The NFW accounts with the country's central bank hold 9.054 billion euro, 285.7 billion yuan (USD$40.2 billion), 517.1 metric tons of gold, and 228 mln rubles (USD$2.82 million), according to the latest data.

The NWF holds Russia's oil revenues and was created to help support the pension system. "NWF is dedicated to support pension system of the Russian Federation to guarantee long-term sound functioning of the system," the Finance Ministry's website states. The Fund's primary mission is to "co-finance voluntary pension savings of Russian citizens and to balance budget of Pension Fund of the Russian Federation."

The fund's assets held in euro, pounds, and Japanese yen were frozen after sanctions were introduced on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.

Back in January, Russia already sold 3.6 tonnes of gold and 2.3 billion Chinese yuan from the NWF to cover the budget deficit as income from oil and gas revenues fell. This marked the first move of its kind.

Two years ago, the NWF ditched all of its U.S. dollar assets and boosted its gold, euro, and Chinese yuan holdings.

And at the start of this year, the Russian Finance Ministry said it had doubled its holding limits of gold and Chinese yuan within the National Wealth Fund (NWF). The new maximum holding limits are set at 40% for gold and 60% for yuan. The previous limits were at 20% and 30%, respectively.

In other news, Russia's finance ministry also said Monday that it will be increasing its daily foreign currency sales to the equivalent of 3.6 billion roubles ($44.3 million) per day between June 7 and July 6. This move is meant as additional compensation for falling fuel revenues.

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