* Turkey increases holdings the most in July, by 22.5 T
* Fifteen central banks lifted gold reserves - IMF
* Gold had risen 7 pct in July after hitting 3-year low in June
By A. Ananthalakshmi
SINGAPORE, Aug 27 (Reuters) - Turkey, Russia and Azerbaijan increased their gold reserves in July, data from the International Monetary Fund showed on Tuesday, as bullion prices recovered from near three-year lows.
Turkey lifted its gold holdings by 22.5 tonnes, the biggest increase seen among 15 central banks last month whose reserves rose, according to data from the IMF’s website. France, Kazakhstan, Mozambique and Guatemala also boosted their reserves of the precious metal but by a much smaller amount.
Gold holdings by central banks are keenly watched since they as a group became net buyers in 2010 following two decades of being net sellers. The 2008 global economic crisis triggered resurgent official-sector interest in gold.
But talk in April that Cyprus could be forced to sell its gold reserves to improve its finances sparked a sharp sell-off in the metal amid fears more central banks may follow suit.
Gold jumped more than 7 percent in July after slumping to $1,180.71 an ounce in June, its weakest since August 2010.
Bullion has mostly sustained gains since with prices up nearly 6 percent this month. But the metal is still down almost 17 percent for the year, on track to end a 12-year rally as an improving U.S. economy looks set to prompt the Federal Reserve to curb its bullion-friendly stimulus program.
Turkey, which has the world’s 11th-largest gold reserve, lifted its holdings to 464 tonnes in July from 441.5 tonnes in June. The country’s central bank last year allowed commercial banks to hold a portion of their lira reserves in gold.
Russia’s gold holdings - the seventh-biggest - increased 6.345 tonnes to 1,002.8 tonnes, rising for a 10th straight month, the IMF data showed.
Azerbaijan added 2.009 tonnes to bring its holdings to 10.023 tonnes in July.
Mexico, Denmark and Canada were among those that sold some gold in small quantities. (Additional reporting by Manolo Serapio Jr.; Editing by Michael Perry)