May 22, 2017 / 11:26 AM / 3 months ago

Israel central bank narrows loss in 2016 to $1.5 bln

JERUSALEM, May 22 (Reuters) - Israel's central bank reported a narrower net loss in 2016 as weak global currencies continued to weigh on its bottom line.

The Bank of Israel said on Monday it lost 5.3 billion shekels ($1.5 billion) last year compared with an 8.1 billion shekel loss in 2015.

It said the weakening of the euro and pound were the main factors for its loss in 2016, while the effect of the weaker dollar did not contribute to the loss.

The shekel was largely unchanged versus the dollar in 2016 but gained 18 percent against the pound and 6 percent against the euro.

The bank's assets grew 7 percent, or 25 billion shekels, to 394 billion in 2016, mainly on foreign currency purchases by the central bank in a bid to prevent a rapid appreciation of the shekel. Its foreign exchange reserves in April hit a record high of $105 billion.

During 2016, the bank widened its investment of forex reserves into foreign shares. "Over time, investment in corporate bonds and shares is expected to continue increasing the return on the reserves portfolio, but with an increase in the volatility of profits," the Bank of Israel said. ($1 = 3.5839 shekels) (Reporting by Steven Scheer, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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