* Turkey lifts gold holdings by about 23 tonnes in Aug
* Russia also among 8 central banks that bought more gold
* Followed drop in gold prices to sub-$1,300 levels in Aug
By A. Ananthalakshmi
SINGAPORE, Sept 25 (Reuters) - Turkey raised its gold reserves by the most in five months in August and topped the list of countries that bought more bullion, according to the International Monetary Fund, showing that gold’s appeal remains intact despite falling prices.
Russia, which has the world’s seventh largest reserves of gold, increased its holdings last month by the biggest amount since December, according to the IMF data on Wednesday.
Eight central banks increased reserves in August, down from 15 in July, while five cut their holdings.
Gold holdings by central banks are keenly watched since the group became net buyers in 2010 after two decades as net sellers. The 2008 global economic crisis triggered resurgent official-sector interest in gold.
“This is consistent with our view that central banks continue to view gold as good value on a long-term basis,” said Victor Thianpiriya, an analyst with Australia and New Zealand Banking Group.
“(Central bank buying) should continue to be a supporting factor going forward.”
The latest purchases came after spot gold fell below $1,300 an ounce in early August on fears the U.S. Federal Reserve would cut its massive bond purchases that had burnished bullion’s draw as an inflation hedge.
Prices recovered after the Fed opted this month to stick to its economic stimulus although fresh concerns the decision to taper may happen in October have trapped gold just slightly above $1,300.
Gold has fallen more than 20 percent this year, on course for its first annual drop in 13 years.
Turkey added 23.344 tonnes to lift its gold holdings to 487.351 tonnes, while Russia increased reserves by 12.722 tonnes to 1,015.521 tonnes, according to the IMF’s website.
Turkey has bought gold in 13 of the past 14 months and Russia has added to its reserves for 11 consecutive months.
Russia’s gold holdings crossed the 1,000 tonne mark in July, while Turkey’s increases have been bigger this year as its central bank allowed commercial lenders to hold a portion of their lira reserves in gold.
Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan were the other countries that added to their gold reserves by more than 2 tonnes each last month. Canada, Mexico and Czech Republic were among those that reduced their holdings marginally.
A change in central banks’ buying and selling patterns tend to affect global gold prices.
In April, news that Cyprus was looking to sell gold reserves to ease its financial burden sent spot prices falling by the most in 30 years.