GIR dips but remains 'more than adequate'

THE country's gross international reserves (GIR) declined to $103.4 billion in January, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) reported late on Wednesday, down $346.6 million from $103.8 billion a month earlier.

The decrease mainly resulted from the national government's settlement of its foreign currency debts and the central bank's gold holdings being revalued due to lower prices of the metal.

The amount, the BSP said in a statement, “represents a more than adequate external liquidity buffer equivalent to 7.7 months' worth of imports of goods and payments of services and primary income.”

It is also equivalent to about “6.0 times the country's short-term external debt based on original maturity and 3.9 times based on residual maturity.”

GIR levels are considered adequate “if it can finance at least three months' worth of the country's imports of goods and payments of services and primary income,” the BSP said.

Net international reserves, which comprise the difference between GIR and reserve liabilities, declined by $900 million to $102.8 billion as of the end of January from the end-December level of $103.7.

GIR consists of the BSP's foreign investments, gold, foreign exchange, a reserve position in the International Monetary Fund, and special drawing rights.

Sought for comment, China Banking Corp. chief economist Domini Velasquez said GIR remained sufficient despite the marginal decrease.

She added that it continued to ensure the country's capability to fulfill external responsibilities and prevent unwarranted fluctuations and devaluation of the peso.

“Looking ahead, we expect the GIR to receive steady inflows from remittances, BPO (business process outsourcing) revenues and tourism receipts. Anticipated rate cuts from the Fed will also likely result in a weaker US dollar and in turn a stronger peso,” Velasquez continued.

“This could be an opportunity to further build up reserves as a guard against peso volatility.”

Michael Ricafort, chief economist at Rizal Commercial Banking Corp., said the latest GIR level would still help strengthen the country's external position and in turn fundamentally support the country's credit ratings.

“Proceeds of any additional foreign borrowings by the government and the country's largest companies could add to the country's BoP (balance of payments) and GIR for the coming months,” Ricafort said.