The European Central Bank says it and 21 national central banks in Europe are letting an agreement regulating gold sales expire, saying the deal struck two decades ago to stabilize the market for the precious metal is no longer needed.

The ECB said Friday that the fourth Central Bank Gold Agreement would not be renewed when it expires Sept. 26.

The first such agreement was signed in 1999 amid concerns about the impact of uncoordinated sales by central banks from reserves mostly concentrated in rich European and North American countries as a legacy of the days when currencies were pegged to gold. Central banks agreed to coordinate transactions to keep the price from swinging excessively.

The ECB said that the central banks that are part of the agreement have not sold significant amounts of the precious metal for nearly a decade, eliminating the need for the deal.

At the end of 2018, central banks collectively held around 33,200 tons of gold, about one fifth of the metal ever mined, according to the World Gold Council. Those holdings mean central banks have immense pricing power in markets. The first agreement, also known as the Washington Gold Agreement, was preceded by abrupt swings in the gold price.

Signed during the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund, that first deal placed a limit on the amount of the metal that signatories could collectively sell in any one year. Other major gold holders, including the U.S., Japan, Australia, the IMF and the Bank for International Settlements either informally associated themselves with the agreement or said at other times they would not sell. Prices rose. Gold prices have increased from $287.80 per ounce at the start of 1999 to $1,146.10 per ounce on Thursday.

Sales from the group of central banks reached 500 tons in 2005 but have since fallen sharply.

© The Associated Press. All rights reserved.