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Economy in Brief

 Accumulation of Foreign Reserves of Developing Countries in the Far East Slowing:  Shift in Composition of Holdings of All Developing Countries 
by Louise Curley April 4, 2006

The accumulation of foreign reserves by the developing countries in the Far East appears to be decelerating. Reserves are still increasing, but much more slowly than the pace of early 2004 when the year-to-year increases in reserves were of the order of 30-50%. Taiwan and South Korea are the latest countries to report. Total foreign reserves in Taiwan were unchanged in March from February and only 2.4% above March 2005, down from year-to-year increases of 35% in early 2004. Total reserves in South Korea were up less than one percent from February and less than 6% from March 2005, compared to year-to-year increases of over 30% in early 2004. The year-to-year increases in reserves in Taiwan and South Korea are shown in the first chart.

China is much slower to report its reserve holdings. The latest data are for December, but even here a deceleration can be detected. In December the year-over-year increase in reserves was down to 33.7% from 51.1% in August. 2005. The deceleration has been going on longer in India where the year-to-year increase in reserves was 11.5% in February, 2006, down from 52.5% in April, 2004. The year-to-year increases in the reserves of China and India are shown in the second chart.

The International Monetary Fund has recently published information on the composition of total reserves and those held by the industrial countries and developing countries. Data are available in US Dollars, Euros, Pounds Sterling, Japanese Yen, Swiss Francs and a miscellaneous category "other currencies". (These data are found in the IFS data base.) The data, however, show only the composition of allocated reserves, which, in the case of the developing countries, is only slightly more than half the total. Nevertheless, the changing composition of these allocated reserves gives some indication of the broader shifts that may be taking place in total reserves. Over the period from the first quarter of 1999 when the data began to the fourth quarter of 2005, the proportion of euro claims in the allocated reserves of the developing countries rose from 19% to 29% while the proportion of US$ claims declined from 70% to 60%. (See the third and fourth charts.)

International Reserves: 
Developing Countries in
the Far East
(Bil US$)
Mar 06 Feb 06 Jan 06 Dec 05 Y/Y % Current Y/Y % Past Peak  2004 
South Korea 217.3 215.9 216.9 210.3 5.8 32.4 April
Taiwan  257.0 257.0 257.3 253.3 2.4 35.2 February
China 821.5 33.7 51.1 August
India 135.9 134.7 131.9 11.5 52.5 April
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