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Serbia’s Central Bank Urges Lenders to Keep Lid on Deposit Rates

Serbia’s central bank urged commercial banks to offer “reasonable” rates on savings instead of adding premiums to lure new depositors.

An “unmeasured increase in interest rates should not turn into unreasonable competition,” the Belgrade-based Narodna Banka Srbije said in an e-mail today. High rates on savings deposits may expose banks to “liquidity shocks” by spreading risk throughout the financial system, the central bank said.

Serbia has raised borrowing costs three times this year to slow dinar declines and curb inflation. Other monetary authorities in eastern Europe are following the lead of central banks in the U.S. and Britain by cutting rates to halt the economic slowdown.

Banks pay between 3 percent and 5.5 percent on euro-denominated one-year deposits and between 3.1 percent and 6 percent on three-year savings. Savings’ volumes tend to increase in November, with banks offering higher interest rates on deposits on the occasion of the International Savings Day, according to the central bank’s data.

Household savings in Serbia totaled 931.27 billion dinars ($10.53 billion) in August. Since 2007, savings were expanding by between 1.5 percent and 15 percent in real terms in November.

Seventy-four percent of banks in Serbia are majority owned by financial institutions, mainly from Italy, Austria, and Greece, most of which are increasingly relying on locally sourced savings to fund lending.

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