March 6, 2018 / 11:06 AM / 3 months ago

CORRECTED-UPDATE 1-Lebanese dollar reserves recover from last year's crisis

(Corrects `last month’ to `that month’ in third paragraph.)

BEIRUT, March 6 (Reuters) - The Lebanese central bank’s dollar reserves climbed by $1.4 billion in the first two months of the year and its total assets in dollars exceeded $43 billion, recovering from a decline during a political crisis at the end of last year, its governor said on Tuesday.

Governor Riad Salameh said political conditions in the country had “returned to normal” following the crisis in November, when Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri announced his resignation, which he later withdrew, in a broadcast from Saudi Arabia.

During November’s turmoil, some Lebanese rushed for dollars; data shows central bank foreign assets fell by $1.6 billion that month.

Salameh gave the figure in a speech to an economic conference. He earlier told Reuters the general reserve of the central bank and its assets in foreign currencies had increased by $1.5 billion in the first two months.

Salameh also told Reuters that November’s increase in local currency interest rates of around 2 percentage points — a result of the political crisis — had been enough to iron out market imbalances, “therefore we have an outlook of stable interest rates”.

“With the rise of interest rates and the return of political issues to normal, the dollar reserves at the central bank rose by around $1.4 billion by the end of February since the end of 2017,” Salameh told the conference.

Organised by Lebanese business magazine Al-Iktissad Wal-Aamal in cooperation with Prime Minister’s office, the conference was a roadshow for Lebanon’s government before an international donor and investor conference in Paris in April seeking support for infrastructure development. (Reporting by Lisa Barrington; editing by Larry King)

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