Lebanon central bank says forex reserves up $1.4bln in second half August

The Banque du Liban's (BDL) foreign exchange reserves increased to approximately $38.66bln excluding gold

  
A man sits on the stairs in front of the central bank in Beirut, Lebanon May 7, 2019. Image used for illustrative purpose.

A man sits on the stairs in front of the central bank in Beirut, Lebanon May 7, 2019. Image used for illustrative purpose.

REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

BEIRUT  - Lebanon's foreign exchange reserves, excluding gold, rose by around $1.4 billion in the last two weeks of August, the central bank said on Friday.

The Banque du Liban's (BDL) foreign exchange reserves increased to approximately $38.66 billion excluding gold, a statement from Governor Riad Salameh said.

That was up from $37.25 billion on Aug. 15, BDL data showed. The reserves have been rising gradually since mid-June, but this is the biggest jump.

"This increase is due to the influx of deposits from the non-resident private sector, directly to BDL (and not due to sovereign or state deposits)," a central bank statement said.

"This increase ensures the solvency of Lebanon and strengthens the stability of the Lebanese pound and reduces the balance of payments deficit."

Lebanon usually publishes its foreign asset data on the 15th and final day of each month. Friday's data release appeared to be a day earlier than usual.

The United States on Thursday sanctioned Lebanon-based Jammal Trust Bank SAL and its subsidiaries for allegedly facilitating the financial activities of Lebanon's Iran-backed Hezbollah group. 

Some of Lebanon's dollar bonds have plummeted to new lows in August, while the cost of insuring its sovereign debt against default has surged.

The price of its 2025 issue has dropped by 13% this month, according to Tradeweb data, while its 5-year credit default swaps have jumped 274 basis points (bps) to 1,221 bps, IHS Markit data showed.

(Reporting by Lisa Barrington in Beirut; additional reporting by Tom Arnold in London; editing by Mark Heinrich and Jason Neely) ((lisa.barrington@thomsonreuters.com;))

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