June 5, 2020 / 2:46 AM / a month ago

Singapore bank deposits jump as Hong Kong, virus sow uncertainty

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - A record flow of money poured into Singapore bank accounts in April as the COVID-19 pandemic rocked world economies, the latest in a stream of foreign cash that the city-state said has included deposits from rival financial centre Hong Kong.

A woman wearing a protective face mask passes the skyline of Singapore?s business district amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Singapore, May 27, 2020. REUTERS/Edgar Su

Singapore typically attracts capital flows during regional turmoil due to its political stability and AAA credit rating, a status that has been galvanised by political uncertainty and social unrest in Asia’s other premier wealth centre, Hong Kong.

Deposits from nonresidents into the city-state’s banks jumped 44% to a record S$62.14 billion ($44.37 billion) in April from a year earlier, marking the fourth straight monthly rise, central bank data showed.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore told Reuters in a statement that since mid-2019 there has been a broad-based increase of flows into Singapore by non-residents from multiple jurisdictions, including Hong Kong.

“These flows have become more volatile in recent months due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting market fluctuations,” the central bank said.

Deposits have risen in all but one month over the past year, a period marked by escalating political unrest in Hong Kong, a U.S.-China trade row and the outbreak of the pandemic.

The data did not break down the origin of the inflows, but analysts pointed to the turbulence in Hong Kong.

“Hong Kong has been a source of funds for obvious reasons,” said Song Seng Wun, an economist at CIMB Private Banking. He added the pandemic and pressure on regional currencies had also fed fears of a currency crisis and capital flight.

The data also showed foreign-currency deposits at banks in Singapore almost quadrupled to a record S$27 billion in April from a year earlier. They were up nearly 200% in the first four months of 2020 from the same period last year.

Non-resident deposits include funds from individuals and companies with registered addresses outside the city-state. Analysts say that while the data gives only a partial picture of flows, it is seen as a good gauge of market sentiment.

Safe haven flows into Singapore should continue as long as regional uncertainties, such as those in Hong Kong and U.S.-China trade tensions, persist, said Andrea Choong, an analyst at CGS-CIMB Securities.

($1 = 1.4006 Singapore dollars)

Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan and Anshuman Daga in Singapore; editing by Richard Pullin and William Mallard

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