BEIJING, Dec 24 (Reuters) - Chinese banks bought more foreign currency than they sold for clients in November, leading to a net purchase of $18.5 billion in foreign exchange in over-the-counter transactions, figures from the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE) showed on Monday.
It marked a sharp increase from a net purchase of $7.8 billion in October.
In the first eleven months, Chinese banks made net foreign exchange purchases of $56.3 billion, SAFE, the country’s forex regulator, said in a statement on its website, www.safe.gov.cn
It added that Chinese banks were also net buyers of $5.4 billion in the forwards market last month.
China has the world’s largest foreign exchange reserves, standing at $3.29 trillion at the end of September, accumulated as a function of the country’s capital controls which saw exporters and investors sell dollars to Chinese banks, which in turn sold most of them to the central bank.
But commercial banks have sold less foreign currency to the central bank, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC), in recent months in response to easing restrictions on FX holdings and borrowings.
The central bank had earlier said China’s entire banking system sold 73.6 billion yuan worth of foreign exchange on a net basis in November, reversing from two consecutive months of net purchases.
Following is monthly data on Chinese commercial banks’ net foreign exchange purchases (in $bln): Nov Oct Sep Aug Jul Jun May Apr Mar Feb Jan Dec Nov 18.5 7.8 6.3 -6.3 0.5 -3.5 5.1 -3.7 7.8 4.4 19.4 -15.3 -0.8
Reporting by Aileen Wang and Lucy Hornby; Editing by Eric Meijer