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Mon 29 Feb 2016 09:21 AM

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Saudi central bank net foreign assets fell 2.4% in January to $594 billion

The central bank, which acts as Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund, has been drawing down its assets to cover a huge state budget deficit caused by low oil prices

Saudi central bank net foreign assets fell 2.4% in January to $594 billion

Net foreign assets at Saudi Arabia's central bank dropped 2.4 percent from the previous month to 2.23 trillion riyals ($594.6 billion) in January, central bank data showed on Sunday.

Assets fell 18.2 percent from a year earlier to their lowest level since late 2012. They reached a record high of $737 billion in August 2014 before starting to shrink.

The central bank, which acts as Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund, has been drawing down its assets to cover a huge state budget deficit caused by low oil prices.

The bulk of foreign assets are believed to be denominated in US dollars. They are mainly securities such as US Treasury bonds and deposits with banks abroad; equities are believed to account for only a small fraction, perhaps under 20 percent. Some assets are managed through major global fund firms.

The central bank's holdings of foreign securities shrank 0.9 percent from the previous month to $397.8 billion in January, while foreign bank deposits tumbled 7.3 percent to $136.5 billion.

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