Gulf Arab states saw $780 mln in fund outflows due to Fed taper: IMF

Reuters, Monday 27 Oct 2014

Capital outflows from Gulf Arab states have totalled only about $780 million since the U.S. Federal Reserve unveiled its plan to wind down asset purchases in May last year, a small fraction of the money leaving other emerging markets, according to a study by the International Monetary Fund.

The IMF study, published on Monday, appears to confirm that because of their large current account and state budget surpluses, the Gulf oil exporters are seen by international investors as better equipped to handle a period of rising interest rates than most areas of the world.

Combined bond and equity outflows from the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council - Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain - were equivalent to only 0.05 percent of gross domestic product or 3.5 percent of assets under management between May 2013 and July 2014, the study found.

That compares with cumulative outows from other emerging markets of $79 billion, equivalent to 0.35 percent of GDP and 6.1 percent of assets under management.

Initially, outows from the Gulf countries were broadly in line with those from other emerging markets, but they have been much smaller since early 2014, the IMF found.

"The strength in GCC countries' external sectors...appears to have been an important factor explaining the limited capital outows during the second period of volatility," it said.

Fed officials will meet on Oct. 28-29 to decide whether to shelve their stimulative bond-buying programme as planned. This is expected to lead eventually to higher U.S. interest rates, which could draw more funds out of emerging markets.

GCC countries, which mostly peg their currencies to the U.S. dollar, are expected to follow the Fed closely in raising interest rates.

The IMF study ended before a bout of currency market volatility in Saudi Arabia last week. The Saudi riyal fell sharply against the U.S. dollar in the forwards market after coming under pressure in the spot market because, traders said, of a large outflow of capital.

Some speculated that the outflow may have been in response to the recent plunge of global oil prices to four-year lows, which if sustained could slash Saudi Arabia's external surplus and cause it to run a state budget deficit next year.

Since last week, however, the markets have calmed and foreign exchange prices have drifted back nearer normal levels. 

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