Vietnam's foreign reserves hit record high of $40 billion: central bank

By An Hong   October 20, 2016 | 03:08 pm GMT+7
Vietnam's foreign reserves hit record high of $40 billion: central bank
Earlier this year, the SBV or the central bank decided to ease exchange rate rules, setting the official mid-point rate of the Vietnamese dong against the U.S. dollar on a daily basis. Photo by VGP.

With over $40 billion in foreign currency reserves, Vietnam can cover three months of imports.

The State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) purchased more than $100 million in the past two days, capitalizing on a slight strengthening of the Vietnamese dong.

The U.S. dollar/Vietnamese dong exchange rate hit VND22,300 per dollar earlier this week. Following the central bank's aggressive purchase, the dong edged slightly downward.

The dong's daily mid-point rate against the U.S. dollar, which the central bank adopted earlier this year, dropped 0.14 percent from its 22,000 level last week.

During a recent cabinet meeting, SBV Governor Le Minh Hung said current reserves exceed the record high of $40 billion and represent enough funds to cover three months of imports. He estimated that the SBV had purchased $11 billion worth of foreign currency toward the end of September.

According to Hong Kong-based lender HSBC, Vietnam’s foreign exchange reserves (excluding gold) reached an estimated $38 billion in June.

The bank cited the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as saying that Vietnam’s foreign exchange reserves sharply declined to some $27.9 billion at the end of last year during a campaign to curb dollar hoarding and stabilize the foreign exchange market.

HSBC reported that Vietnam managed to enlarge its foreign reserves to around $33.6 billion in the first quarter of this year. The lender further estimated that the central bank’s stockpile of foreign currency had increased by $8 billion over the first five months of this year.

On Tuesday, the dong fell further to around VND22,309 – VND22,310 per dollar on the interbank market at the beginning of the trading day. Abundant supply and good liquidity however stopped the dong from falling further against the dollar. The dong closed at VND22,306-VND22,307 per dollar.

Commercial banks forecast that the dong/dollar exchange rate is highly likely to continue strengthening to VND22,300 per dollar due to abundant supply in the final months of the year.

“Excess liquidity in the banking system will remain in the next few weeks. Inflation is expected to remain low, edging up by 0.2 percent – 0.3 percent in October. We think, in the short-term, the exchange rate will continue to hover around VND22,300 per dollar,” said a banker in Ho Chi Minh City.

Local lenders agreed that the dong/dollar exchange rate shifts are based on local demand and a supply principally maintained by large importers.

They view the supply of foreign currency as stable, but expect demand to soar in the coming months, according to local bankers.

Earlier this year, the SBV decided to ease exchange rate rules, setting the official mid-point rate of the Vietnamese dong against the U.S. dollar on a daily basis.

Vietnam previously adopted a system that permitted the dong to trade around a fixed range that the central bank adjusted from time to time.

During an exclusive interview with VnExpress in April, SBV Director Bui Quoc Dung said Vietnam isn't ready to allow the dong/dollar rate to float freely according to market forces.

Dung claimed Vietnam's financial market hadn't fully developed and domestic businesses remain ill-equipped to manage the risks associated with foreign currencies.

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