May 30, 2013
Update 31/05/13 09:40: As we noted below, it seems that the figures do include some of the write-downs of deposits under the bank restructuring (but not all). Apologies for the confusion. As the Central Bank of Cyprus notes the initial write down for Bank of Cyprus depositors is included. This totals around €3.2bn. This means the actual outflow was around €3bn, similar to the previous month.
This is still fairly significant, although we expect much of this may be domestic and due to people and businesses running down their cash reserves. This also likely reduces some of the concerns over the workings of the capital controls. The data does give some feeling for who might be losing from the bank restructuring – US Dollar depositors and foreign NFCs are probably a large share. The concerns over the bank deleveraging and increasing reliance on central bank financing also remain (since they were already well established).
The real test of the deposit flight will come, firstly once the bank restructuring is complete (by end of July) and secondly once the capital controls are removed (who knows when).
The headline figures are pretty terrible. Overall deposits declined by €6.346bn (10%) in April, almost double the level seen in March (when the crisis was in full swing) – despite stringent capital controls being in place for the entire month. However, given their importance, these figures deserve delving beyond the headlines.
The charts above (click to enlarge) raise some interesting points:
- First, it’s clear that the deposit flight is continuing despite the strict capital controls. This is concerning, since it shows the Cypriot government’s inability to enforce the rules, particularly on the financial sector. It also means that capital controls continue to hamper the functioning of the Cypriot economy, but are failing to stop an outflow of money (though admittedly it could have been much larger without them).
- Second, the outflows are split between domestic residents and those in the rest of the world (ROW). ROW deposits are unlikely to return for some time. Cyprus could hold out hope that domestic residents are just stashing cash due to concerns over the economy and banks, meaning this money may eventually return. Unfortunately, given the bleak outlook this is unlikely to happen anytime soon.
- Third, a surprisingly large amount of the withdrawal (€3.2bn) has come from deposits held in US dollars. This money might also have moved abroad and is unlikely to return, suggesting both domestic and foreign investors are moving money away from Cyprus.
- Lastly, much of the withdrawal has been by non-financial corporations (NFCs) and households. This was perhaps more predictable, but again raises concerns about the future of investment and consumption in the economy. The underlying data shows especially strong withdrawals from ROW households and NFCs which have been a big source of economic growth for Cyprus in recent years. It could also peak concerns over the impact the capital controls are having, as firms and households are forced to eat into their cash reserves (although they still remain at a decent headline level).
One important point to keep in mind concerns the losses for some uninsured depositors under the bank restructurings. It is not clear from the Central Bank of Cyprus figures whether this has already been accounted for in the data above, although this looks unlikely since the process is still continuing. That said, if it has been, then the actual withdrawals are smaller – though still high. The overall economic impact also remains similar.
What does all this mean for Cyprus and the eurozone?
- Much of it confirms what many people feared in the aftermath of the crisis. In particular, it paints a bleak picture for future growth in Cyprus as money flows out of the economy. It also raises questions over whether such outflows were accounted for in the overly optimistic assumptions about Cypriot growth.
- Another problem will be bank financing. Cypriot banks are locked out of the markets and may well be for some time. With deposits falling they will be forced to access more ECB liquidity and possibly the Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA). This is something which the ECB has notoriously been trying to avoid in Cyprus, and more generally. Not least because under any future restructuring/default/euro exit scenario the ECB would face larger losses.
- But it’s also important to remember that there is a limit to how much Cypriot banks can access through these facilities since they require assets to be posted as collateral. Even if they are able to, it is clearly possible that this pressure could force them to increase the already rapid pace of deleveraging. This would undoubtedly further hamper lending to the real economy and in turn economic growth.
- As noted above, from a wider perspective it will increase already pressing concerns over the enforcement of the controls and more generally over regulation of the financial sector in Cyprus.