Lebanon’s banks see no ‘extraordinary movement’ of money on reopening

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There had been concerns that people would flock to Lebanese banks to withdraw funds and transfer money abroad due to political and economic uncertainty. (Reuters)
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A man takes a picture with his mobile phone as people queue outside a branch of Blom Bank in Sidon, Lebanon November 1, 2019. REUTERS/Ali Hashisho
Updated 02 November 2019

Lebanon’s banks see no ‘extraordinary movement’ of money on reopening

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s banks did not see “any extraordinary movement” of money on Friday or Saturday, the first two days they reopened to the public after a two-week closure due to nationwide protests, the head of the banking association said on Saturday.

“The reaction was almost the way we expected and anticipated. However, people were asking a lot of questions and we provided as much assurances as possible,” Salim Sfeir, head of the Association of Banks in Lebanon, told Reuters by email.

Analysts and bankers had cited widespread concern about a rush by depositors to withdraw their savings or transfer them abroad when the banks reopen.

The nationwide protests that erupted on Oct. 17 tipped Lebanon into political turmoil as it grapples with the worst economic crisis since the 1975-90 civil war. The uprisings led Saad Al-Hariri to quit as prime minister this week.

“We are trying to counter rumors and avoid panic in order to prevent any unnecessary and unjustified withdrawals,” Sfeir said.

When banks opened their doors on Friday, no formal capital controls were imposed, but customers encountered new curbs on transfers abroad and withdrawals from US dollar accounts, bankers and customers said.

A banking source said branch operations so far had been “better than expected.”

Amid rain, protest activity was low on Saturday morning, but there were calls on social media for gatherings later in the day.

The central bank was not immediately available for comment on how much money had left and entered the country as banks reopened.


Oil retreats in face of renewed coronavirus uncertainty

Updated 22 February 2020

Oil retreats in face of renewed coronavirus uncertainty

  • G20 finance leaders to meet in Saudi Arabia at the weekend to discuss risks to the global economy
  • OPEC+ has been withholding supply to support prices and many analysts expect an extension or deepening of the curbs

LONDON: Oil prices fell on Friday as weak Asian data and a rise in new coronavirus cases fuelled uncertainty about the economic outlook while leading crude producers appeared to be in no rush to curb output.

Brent crude was down $1.56, or 2.6 percent, at $57.75 in afternoon trade, while U.S. crude dropped $1.25, or 2.3 percent, to $52.63.

"With Brent failing to breach the $60 level on Thursday despite better than expected U.S. oil inventory data, rising market uncertainty is dragging down oil prices on Friday," said UBS analyst Giovanni Staunovo.

"Market participants who benefited from the price rise in recent days might prefer not to go into the weekend with a long position."

 

China reports rise in coronavirus cases.

Japan factory activity shrinks at fastest pace since 2012.

Russia says early OPEC+ meeting no longer makes sense.

Finance leaders from the Group of 20 major economies meet in Saudi Arabia at the weekend to discuss risks to the global economy after new Asian economic and health data kept investors on guard.

Beijing reported an uptick in coronavirus cases on Friday and South Korea reported 100 new cases, doubling its infections. In Japan, meanwhile, more than 80 people have tested positive for the virus.

Factory activity in Japan registered its steepest contraction in seven years in February, hurt by fallout from the outbreak. 

"We still believe that the market is likely to trade lower from current levels, given the scale of the surplus over the first half of this year, and the need for the market to send a signal to OPEC+ that they must take further action at their meeting in early March," said ING analyst Warren Patterson.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on Thursday that global oil producers understood it would no longer make sense for the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies to meet before the planned gathering.

The group, known as OPEC+, has been withholding supply to support prices and many analysts expect an extension or deepening of the curbs.