The Great Lockdown triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically reduced economic activities in dozens of countries. Tax collections have fallen. They have been borrowing aggressively to cover the budget shortfall and meet other obligations. Having a healthy forex reserve in these times is crucial. It gives investors and lenders confidence that the country can meet its debt obligations and prevent extreme currency volatility despite the potential economic contraction. Here we take a look at the top 10 countries that have the biggest forex reserves in the world.
Without adequate foreign currency reserves, a country would struggle to service its external debt or pay for critical imports. Countries with enormous forex reserves also wield influence in international matters.
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The United States doesn't have a lot in foreign currency reserves. As of May 2020, it had only $132.23 billion worth of mostly euros and Japanese yen. The US doesn't need to hoard massive piles of foreign currencies because its own dollar is the global reserve currency. Most of the international transactions take place in the US dollar.
The ranking is based on data from the International Monetary Fund, Trading Economics, and the central banks of the respective countries. The reserves go up and down frequently depending on the exchange rate, international trade, political stability and other factors.
10- Brazil, $345.7 billion
According to the central bank of Brazil, it had $345.7 billion in foreign currency reserves at the end of May 2020. Brazil's reserves touched a high of $388 billion in June 2019, but have been declining steadily since then. The COVID-19 pandemic has badly hurt the Brazilian economy, which was already struggling with high unemployment rates.
9- South Korea, $410.8 billion
South Korea's official foreign currency reserves stand at $410.8 billion, according to the Bank of Korea. The Korean economy is driven largely by exports. It is home to corporate giants like Samsung, Hyundai, and LG Electronics.
8- Hong Kong, $442.3 billion
Hong Kong is a special administrative region (SAR) of China, but it reports separate forex figures from mainland China. It is one of the world's leading financial centers and most expensive cities. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) has $442.3 billion in forex reserves.
7- Saudi Arabia, $445 billion
Saudi Arabia has slipped from 4th place last year to 7th place as of May 2020. It is one of the world's largest exporters of oil. Falling oil prices coupled with the pandemic have hurt the Saudi economy. Saudi Arabia has launched a series of economic reforms in the last few years to prepare for the post-oil era.
6- Taiwan, $488.7 billion
The Central Bank of Taiwan is sitting on foreign currency reserves of $488.7 billion as of June 2020, up from $484.5 billion in May. The central bank attributed the large capital inflows and the appreciation of euro against the US dollar for the increase in its reserves. Taiwan is home to electronics heavyweights like Foxconn, Asus, HTC, and Acer.
5- India, $506.8 billion
The Reserve Bank of India has significantly increased its foreign currency reserves in the last few months. According to the latest data, it has $506.8 billion in reserves. Imports during the April-June quarter fell steeply due to the total lockdown imposed by the government, resulting in a trade surplus. The increased foreign direct investment has also helped the RBI shore up its forex reserves.
4- Russia, $568.3 billion
The Russian Federation's foreign currency reserves inched up from $566.1 billion in May to $568.3 billion in June 2020. Russia is one of the world's leading exporters of oil and natural gas. The economic sanctions imposed by the US have hurt the ruble and Russian economy. In 2014, Moscow sold the US dollars totaling more than $100 billion to stabilize its currency.
3- Switzerland, $848.3 billion
Switzerland holds the world's third biggest forex reserve. The Swiss National Bank has $848.3 billion in foreign currency reserves. The Swiss franc is considered a safe haven for European investors. Switzerland is the only European country on this list. Germany and France both have under $250 billion in foreign currency reserves.
2- Japan, $1,378.2 billion
According to Japan's Ministry of Finance, the country had $1,378.2 billion in forex reserves at the end of May 2020. Japan is an export-driven economy. Its primary exports are automobiles, heavy machinery, and electronics. The Japanese yen is the third most popular reserve currency, only behind the US dollar and euro.
1- China, $3,101.6 billion
The People's Bank of China (PBOC) has a staggering $3,101.6 billion in foreign currency reserves as of May 2020, up $10.2 billion from the previous month. China has been the world's largest exporter of goods for years. Its massive trade surplus has helped it build the world's biggest forex reserve.