Saudi Arabia cuts key deposit rate

RIYADH — Saudi Arabia cut some borrowing costs yesterday to relieve pressure on its dollar-pegged currency that has mounted on growing bets Riyadh will allow the riyal to appreciate, bankers said.

By (Reuters)

Published: Sat 24 Nov 2007, 11:36 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 11:22 PM

The Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA), the central bank of the world’s largest oil exporter, reduced the reverse repurchase rate by 50 basis points to 4.25 per cent, three bankers in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates said.

Investors have piled into the riyal SAR in the last week since a source familiar with Saudi policy told Reuters the country could consider revaluing its currency for the first time since 1986, when it pegged the riyal to the dollar at 3.75.

The reverse repo rate is used by banks to set deposit rates, so cutting the rate would make bets on exchange-rate appreciation less attractive, bankers said.

The central bank kept its benchmark repurchase rate, which banks use to determine lending rates, unchanged at 5.5 per cent.

“They are doing this to calm down the market and prevent speculation on the local currency,” said John Sfakianakis, chief economist at SABB, HSBC’s Saudi affiliate. “Investors will find it less attractive to hold deposits in riyal,” he said.

The Saudi riyal hit a 21-year high on Thursday of 3.70 and investors are betting on an appreciation of as much as 3.2 per cent appreciation in the riyal in a year, according to forward rates on Saturday SARF.

Saudi Arabia’s move follows similar rate cuts in the UAE on Thursday, when the central bank cut its six- to 18-month certificate of deposit rates by as much as 20 basis points to make holding dirhams less attractive.

UAE Central Bank Governor Sultan Nasser Al Suweidi said on November 15 he was under mounting social and economic pressure to drop the dirham’s peg to contain inflation, which hit a 19-year high of 9.3 per cent last year.

Forward rates yesterday showed investors betting on a 2.9 per cent appreciation in the UAE dirham, down from more than 3 per cent before the Thursday rate cut.

“The Saudi and UAE moves are not surprising given the amount of pressure on the currencies,” said Jason Goff, head of group treasury and market sales at Emirates Bank International Ltd. Officials at the Saudi central bank could not be reached to confirm the rate cut. The bank usually communicates its interest rate decision to banks and confirms them in a statement, sometimes several days later. Saudi Arabia has reduced its reverse repo rate two times this month but has declined to lower lending costs following two Fed rate cuts.

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