Central Bank discount window

UAE lenders do not hold any debt of peripheral European countries

The UAE Central Bank aims to develop its monetary policy framework by launching a discount window to enable banks to borrow intra-day and overnight funds, it said on Monday, adding the country's economic outlook was encouraging.

"This facility will improve liquidity management practices within the UAE and support money markets if there are liquidity shortfalls," the Central Bank said in its inaugural financial stability review.

"It will also support the development of collateralised debt markets and long-term capital markets as commercial banks will be inclined to invest in securities that are defined as eligible securities - this process will facilitate the implementation of Basel III liquidity standards," it said.

The Central Bank did not say when it planned to launch the window, which will be called "the marginal lending facility" (MLF). Officials were not immediately available for comment.

It said the MLF will be an electronic platform which will be integrated with a domestic Central Securities Depository (CSD) and the UAE Fund Transfer System and will have interfaces with international depositories.

"Banks under the supervision of the Central Bank may sign up to such a facility and will have to maintain eligible collateral with approved CSDs," it said.

Traders and analysts said the Central bank was not under immediate pressure to introduce the new facility because the market was currently flush with funds, but that the MLF could be important in preserving money market stability in future.

During the financial crisis of late 2008, the UAE's Central Bank provided Dh25 billion ($6.8 billion) in special collateralised loans to the banking system.

But a discount window, similar to those used in developed money markets, could allow more flexible management by the Central Bank.

"We see any broadening and deepening of monetary tools as positive," said Monica Malik, chief economist at EFG-Hermes in Dubai. "We are currently not seeing any system-wide shortage in liquidity, although it is important to have the tools in place."

Reflecting the current liquidity surplus, the benchmark three-month Emirates interbank offered rate (Eibor) was fixed at 1.304 per cent on Monday, a level equal to a more-than-eight-year low seen in mid-August.

UPBEAT OUTLOOK

The Central Bank said growth prospects of the Opec member's $338 billion economy were encouraging and banks operating in the country were well-equipped to deal with major stress scenarios and contingencies.

"As regards the prospects for 2012, the UAE economy may achieve better results than the International Monetary Fund estimate of 3.5 per cent growth," it said.

Dubai, the Gulf trade and financial hub, may achieve 4 per cent growth or more and an equal performance is expected for Abu Dhabi.

Increased spending in northern emirates and expectations of high oil prices, which are currently above $114 per barrel, were among the reasons for the bank's upbeat outlook.

The UAE economy grew by 4.2 per cent in 2011 but the global slowdown, partly due to the debt crisis in the euro zone, is expected to take toll this year. A Reuters poll in July forecast 3.2 per cent growth in 2012.

The Central Bank, which pegs its dirham currency to the U.S. dollar, said inflation would remain moderate in line with the IMF's estimate of 1.5 per cent for the year.

It also noted that it considered the UAE banking system more mature and stable, adding lenders did not currently hold any debt issued by peripheral European countries.

The country exposure of banks operating in the UAE -- loans and advances excluding interbank -- amounts to Dh93.9 billion or 5.1 per cent of their total assets, it said, putting the European share at 15 per cent.

"Banks operating in the UAE have managed to diversify their funding into the Middle East and Asia," it said.

Finalising major debt restructuring deals with various entities will likely raise UAE banks' non-performing loans to a peak around an average of 8 to 9 per cent compared with a ratio of 7.2 per cent at the end of 2011, the bank said.

 

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