Saudi central bank provides $13.3 bln to support bank liquidity

DUBAI (Reuters) - The Saudi central bank said on Monday it provided 50 billion riyals ($13.3 billion) to support liquidity in the banking sector, after consumer spending collapsed in April because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The stimulus measure was introduced to help banks support and finance the private sector, the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) said, as the economy suffers from the double blow of low oil prices and virus containment measures.

The impact of such measures was visible in SAMA data for April, published late on Sunday. That data showed a sharp drop in consumer spending, with point-of-sale transactions down 33% and cash withdrawals down by 35% from a year ago.

“April SAMA data offers the first indication of the magnitude of the curfew with consumer spending tumbling 35% y/y despite 2x surge in food spending on Ramadan season and household stocking,” Arqaam Capital said in a research note.

SAMA said on Monday banks were “still registering good performance indicators, enhancing its ability to face challenges and crises.”

Lending to the private sector increased in April by 12.2% year on year, SAMA data showed.

The central bank’s net foreign assets dropped for a second consecutive month in April as the kingdom used tens of billions of dollars to back investments of its sovereign fund abroad.

($1 = 3.7545 riyals)

Reporting by Maher Chmaytelli and Davide Barbuscia; editing by Kim Coghill, Edmund Blair, Larry King