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UPDATE 1-Greek private sector bank deposits drop in Feb. on review jitters
March 27, 2017 / 11:20 AM / 8 months ago

UPDATE 1-Greek private sector bank deposits drop in Feb. on review jitters

* Deposits hit lowest level since October 2001

* Bank of Greece chief urges conclusion of bailout review

* Gap between loans and deposits forces further borrowing (Adds central banker, background)

ATHENS, March 27 (Reuters) - Greek private sector bank deposits declined in February for the third month in a row, central bank data showed on Monday, as worries over the country’s drawn out bailout review put them at their lowest level in nearly 16 years.

Business and household deposits fell to 119.07 billion euros ($129.35 billion), the lowest amount since October 2001, from 119.75 billion in January, when they decreased by 1.63 billion.

Bank of Greece Chief Yannis Stournaras urged the government to wrap up a bailout review that has dragged on for months to put an end to uncertainty that is unnerving investors.

“We already have the first negative impacts on the economy. If we want to attain the targets we must conclude (the review) as soon as possible,” Stournaras told financial website on Monday.

The Bank of Greece said there was an outflow of 637 million euros in household deposits in February and a 113 million euro drop in corporate deposits.

Greek banks have seen small deposit inflows after the country clinched a third bailout in the summer of 2015 to stay in the euro zone.

After that bailout, Athens eased capital restrictions following progress on bailout-mandated reforms which led to improved confidence in the banking system.

As part of the relaxation of controls, “mattress” cash returned to banks are not subject to the restrictions, meaning amounts deposited can be fully withdrawn.

For older deposits the 420 euro weekly limit on cash withdrawals remains in force.

But the gap between outstanding loans and deposits has forced private sector banks to rely on borrowing from the European Central Bank (ECB) and the Bank of Greece to plug funding holes.

Greece’s banking sector saw a 42 billion euro deposit outflow from December 2015 to July last year. Capital controls imposed in June 2015 helped contain the flight but sharply increased banks’ dependence on emergency liquidity assistance (ELA) from the Bank of Greece.

Last week the European Central Bank raised the cap on ELA Greek banks can draw from the domestic central bank by 400 million euros to 46.6 billion euros, as a result of deposit outflows. (Reporting by George Georgiopoulos; Editing by Julia Glover)

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