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Hungary international reserves fall €1.1bn in November

Hungary’s international reserves stood at €35.774bn at the end of November, down €1.10bn from a month earlier, preliminary data published by the National Bank of Hungary (MNB) show.

International reserves were up €2.10bn from the end of 2010 and €2.36bn higher than twelve months earlier, but they were at the lowest level since February.

The data show that foreign exchange reserves fell €865m in a month to €33.55bn at the end of November and "other reserve assets" fell €220m to €1.36bn.

In dollars, the international reserves stood at $47.50bn at the end of November, down from $52.28bn one month earlier but up from $43.46bn twelve months earlier.

The main factor reducing the reserves in November could be the first, €2bn repayment of principal on an IMF-EU loan Hungary took out late in 2008, at the height of the financial crisis.

Another factor reducing the reserves could be a government scheme for early repayment of foreign currency-denominated mortgages.

The MNB launched a series of weekly regular euro-for-forint tenders early in October to give banks sufficient liquidity to handle early repayment of the forex mortgages. Under the government scheme, which runs from the end of September until the end of December, borrowers may repay, in full, forex mortgages at a discounted exchange rate. Banks must cover the difference between the discounted rate and the market rate under the scheme.

In October, the MNB banks used the MNB tenders to cover almost 40% of early repayments under the scheme. Assuming the proportion was the same for repayments in November, which totalled HUF 164bn, at market rates, euros purchased in the tenders reduced the central bank’s reserves by €206m, calculating with an average HUF/€rate of 309.8 for the month.

Hungary made €4bn of foreign debt issues in the spring to cover foreign maturities. No more foreign debt is maturing before the end of 2011.