August 2, 2018 / 11:09 AM / 15 days ago

UPDATE 1-Bahrain central bank's net foreign assets rebound in June

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DUBAI, Aug 2 (Reuters) - Net foreign assets at Bahrain’s central bank, an indication of its ability to defend its currency against market pressure, rebounded in June, the central bank said on Thursday.

The assets rose to 820.6 million dinars ($2.18 billion) in June from 671.1 million dinars in May. However, net foreign assets at Bahraini retail banks fell in June, to minus 1.26 billion dinars from minus 1.20 billion, meaning their liabilities exceeded assets.

Foreign assets have been under pressure as Bahrain runs fiscal and current account deficits fuelled by low oil prices. In May, net foreign assets of the central bank and retail banks combined sank to a record low of minus 526.1 million dinars.

The central bank did not give a reason for the rebound in its assets during June. Bankers say the central bank sometimes uses swap agreements or other deals to obtain foreign currency as needed from retail banks, bolstering its reserves.

Also, analysts believe Bahrain’s diplomatic allies in the Gulf have been quietly providing it with infusions of hard currency to support its reserves.

For example, Bahrain made a private placement of $500 million of government development bonds to an unnamed regional institution in April, according to Jean-Michel Saliba, regional economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

In late June, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait said they would soon announce a formal, public assistance programme to support the country’s fiscal stability and economic reforms. No details have yet been revealed. (Reporting by Andrew Torchia; editing by Kevin Liffey, Larry King)

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