Under the Eurosystem accounting rules gold is valued at end-of-year market prices: at 31 December 2015, the Bank’s holdings of gold bullion were valued at around €77 billion. Revaluation gains are entered in an equity account, while revaluation losses are set against profit for the year only to the extent that they are not covered by the equity account.

This asymmetrical approach has been adopted for general reasons of prudence, i.e. not only to avoid distributing profit that has not actually been realized, but also to keep profits stable over the medium and long term. Transferring revaluation gains to an equity account creates a buffer against negative fluctuations in the market price of gold. In this way the euro-area central banks maintain their financial independence and can continue to perform their role regardless of losses.

If the gold were sold, any gain would contribute to the profit for the year and would be transferred to the State, net of taxes and allocations to provisions to guarantee the Bank’s capital adequacy, under the rules on profit distribution set out in the Bank’s Statute.