Net foreign assets at Saudi Arabia’s central bank fell by $7.4bn to $546.7bn in September from the previous month, as the government drew down reserves to cover a budget deficit caused by low oil prices, official data showed on Sunday.
Assets shrank by 15.5 per cent from a year earlier to their lowest level since January 2012. They reached a record high of $737bn in August 2014 before starting to fall.
The assets are believed to be mainly denominated in US dollars, in the form of securities such as US Treasury bonds and deposits with banks abroad.
Foreign bank deposits shrank $5.1bn from the previous month to $114.4bn in September. Holdings of foreign securities fell $3.5bn to $372.7bn.
The government has also been borrowing domestically and abroad to cover part of its deficit, which totalled nearly $100bn last year. Earlier in October, it raised $17.5bn in its first international bond issue.
Total deposits at Saudi Arabian commercial banks edged up 0.2 per cent from the previous month to SAR1.58 trillion riyals ($422.0bn) in September.