About $4 billion Hong Kong deposits may have left for Singapore in June-August: Goldman

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Hong Kong may have lost as much as $4 billion in deposits to rival financial hub Singapore between June and August, Goldman Sachs estimated this week.

FILE PHOTO: Protesters use their mobile phones as they stand outside HSBC bank headquarters during a demonstration against a proposed extradition bill in Hong Kong, China June 12, 2019. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo

The period during which these flows took place coincides with escalating anti-government protests and political unrest in the Chinese city.

Goldman’s report did not make any mention of the protests.

Modest net outflows from local currency deposits in Hong Kong and the net inflows of foreign currency deposits in Singapore in August could be the latest sign showing $3-4 billion left for the city state, the bank’s analysts said in a report on Monday.

“That said, the HK banking system still has ample liquidity in Hong Kong dollar as well as in foreign currencies,” though “this set of data is unlikely to allay investor concerns around outflows from HK,” they said.

Anti-government protests have gripped Hong Kong for four months with widespread violence this week as China, which resumed ruling the territory in 1997, celebrated the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic.

Hong Kong’s stockpile of deposits stood at HK$13.6 trillion ($1.73 trillion) in August, according to Refinitiv Datastream.

But Hong Kong dollar deposits in the city dropped in August for the most in over a year while U.S. dollar savings surged. Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) insisted on Monday that the fluctuations were “normal”.

The central bank said the uptick in U.S. dollar deposits was driven by a “transfer of funds resulting in a higher amount of foreign-currency deposits placed by the Exchange Fund,” which backs Hong Kong’s currency peg with the greenback at 7.75-7.85.

Asked by Reuters about the reason behind this transfer, a HKMA spokesperson said in an emailed statement on Wednesday, that “in line with past practices, we do not comment on the details of our management of the Exchange Fund.”

The Hong Kong Dollar was trading largely flat at 7.8414 per dollar at 0514 GMT.

(GRAPHIC: Charts - HK deposits by currencies, August 2019 - )

(This story has been refilled to correct throughout to make clear Goldman Sachs’ report did not mention the Hong Kong protests)

Reporting by Noah Sin; Editing by Shri Navaratnam