Till now the bullion world used to believe that only China is secretive about its gold reserves and other nations are giving out the data properly tom the world.

But, now it has emerged that even Saudi Arabia has been hoarding gold for the past year and its reserves have gone up substantially.

The revelation could fuel gold's rally as it is a further sign that central banks are keen on gold, after two decades of selling their bullion. Gold prices hit a nominal record high above $1,260 a troy ounce on Friday. Adjusted for inflation, however, bullion is still a long way from its all-time high of more than $2,300 in 1980.

Saudi Arabia is the world's fourth-largest holder of foreign exchange reserves. According to new estimates that point to the revival of bullion as part of emerging economies' official reserves, Riyadh's reserves were 322.9 tonnes, more than double the 143 tonnes it had previously reported.

The Saudi central bank said in a footnote of its latest quarterly report that gold data have been modified from first quarter 2008 as a result of the adjustment of the Sama's gold accounts.

Analysts said the rise in official gold holdings probably represented an accounting shift rather than fresh purchases. One possibility is that a large fraction of the country's gold was not considered until now part of the official reserves.

But without an official explanation, analysts were keeping options open. At current prices, the extra gold in Saudi Arabia's official reserves amounts to $7bn.

The WGC revelation about Riyadh's gold holdings comes just a year after China surprised the bullion market when it revealed its gold holdings were more than 1,000 tonnes, almost double what it had reported for years.

Analysts believe that central banks could be net buyers of gold this year for the first time in nearly two decades. India bought 200 tonnes of gold from the International Monetary Fund earlier this year, while Russia and others are purchasing bullion from domestic miners on a regular basis, official data show. European central banks, after more than a decade of hefty disposals, have all but stopped selling.