Saudi central bank net foreign assets fall $6bn in March

Net foreign assets held by the central bank dropped by 1.0 per cent from the previous month



Saudi Arabia’s central bank, which serves as the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund, reported a fall of $6bn in net foreign assets in March as low oil prices took their toll.

Net foreign assets held by the central bank dropped by 1.0 per cent from the previous month to SAR 2.17 trillion ($579bn) in March, central bank data showed on Thursday.

Assets fell 16.2 per cent from a year earlier to their lowest level since April 2012. They reached a record high of $737bn in August 2014 before starting to shrink. The central bank has been drawing down its assets to cover a huge state budget deficit caused by low oil prices.

The foreign assets are mainly denominated in US dollars, in the form of securities such as US Treasury bonds and deposits with banks abroad, fund industry sources and foreign banking sources told Reuters.

Equities account for a small fraction, perhaps under 20 per cent, the sources said. Some of the Saudi assets are managed via global fund firms.

Deposits with banks abroad edged down 0.4 per cent from the previous month to $132bn in February, while investment in foreign securities fell 1.4 per cent to $389bn. The central bank does not provide a more detailed breakdown of its assets.

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