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Foreign Exchange Reserves: Why Countries Hold Them

File Photo: Foreign Exchange Reserves: Why Countries Hold Them
File Photo: Foreign Exchange Reserves: Why Countries Hold Them File Photo: Foreign Exchange Reserves: Why Countries Hold Them

What Exactly Are Foreign Exchange Reserves?

A central bank holds foreign exchange reserves as assets on reserve. These reserves support obligations and impact monetary policy. A central bank like the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank has foreign money.

How Foreign Exchange Reserves Function

Foreign currency reserves may include banknotes, deposits, bonds, Treasury bills, and other government instruments. These assets serve numerous uses, but they aim to provide backup cash to a central government agency if its currency quickly devalues or goes bankrupt.

In many nations, central banks retain sizeable forex reserves. The U.S. dollar accounts for most of these reserves and is the most traded currency worldwide. Foreign exchange reserves often include the British pound (GBP), euro (EUR), Chinese yuan (CNY), and Japanese yen (JPY).

Economists recommend holding forex reserves in a currency unrelated to the country’s currency to protect against market shocks. 3 This method has gotten more complex as currencies have become more interwoven and global trade has become more accessible.

Foreign exchange reserves impact both monetary policy and liability backing.

Foreign Exchange Reserves Example

China holds over $3 trillion in foreign exchange reserves, making it the world’s largest. Most of their reserves are dollars. Since most international trade uses the U.S. dollar, this makes it more accessible.

Saudi Arabia exports most of its oil and has large forex reserves. A sharp decline in oil prices might hurt the economy. It holds substantial quantities of foreign cash in reserves as a buffer, even if only temporarily.

Chinese forex reserves were above $3 trillion, while U.S. reserves were $247 billion as of March 25, 2022.

Russia has some forex reserves in gold and mainly in U.S. dollars, like the rest of the globe. In the case of a Russian economic slump, gold’s worth may not be adequate to meet the country’s demands. Russia will have $630 billion in forex reserves in February 2022. After Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, the EU, the U.S., and other nations implemented sanctions that made most of their deposits unavailable to the national bank.

Another risk of utilizing gold as a reserve is that its value depends on what someone else would pay for it. The buyer of the gold reserve would determine its value during an economic downturn, affecting Russia’s financial stability.


  • Central banks have foreign currency reserves.
  • Examples include foreign currencies, bonds, Treasury bills, and other government instruments.
  • U.S. dollars make up most forex reserves, with China holding the most.
  • Economists advise holding forex reserves in a currency other than the nation’s.



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