MAS closely watching UK developments

MAS closely watching UK developments

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) on Monday said it is monitoring the developments in Europe closely, with the UK referendum due this week.

"MAS is monitoring the developments in Europe closely," said a spokesman from the central bank in response to queries from last week.

"Singapore's banking system remains sound and resilient, with strong capital and liquidity buffers to withstand shocks. Nonetheless, the current uncertain external environment underscores the importance of staying vigilant to new or growing risks and vulnerabilities."

Banks here are mum on their contingency plans in the event that Britain chooses to leave the European Union, but there is a sense that much of global efforts will be focused on London, the nerve centre of forex trading in the world, and Britain's capital.

DBS said that it is taking precautions to ready itself for the poll results, which are expected to pour in Friday afternoon, Singapore time.

"We are deploying our full team of traders and will take extra measures to ensure our IT systems can cope with the anticipated increase in queries and trading volume," said Andrew Ng, DBS' group head of treasury and markets, in a statement to BT last week.

OCBC and UOB would say that while markets are expected to be volatile if Brexit comes to pass, the impact on the banks' balance sheet will not be material. OCBC's chief risk officer, Vincent Choo, said: "Our exposure to UK and Europe is not material to the overall health of our balance sheet." UOB's head of investor relations and research, Jimmy Koh, said Brexit "would have a negligible impact on UOB as our non-bank exposure to the UK is minimal".

The latest opinion polls from the Financial Times on the referendum suggested that voters are split down the middle; the pound surged in response.

Citi said in a recent report that if the "Leave side" wins, flight to safety flows may place further upward pressure on the dollar and raise risk premia on UK, and possibly some EU, fixed income and equity assets.

It added Fed chair Janet Yellen will have an opportunity on Tuesday at the semi-annual Congressional testimony, to elaborate on the Fed's contingency plans and possible policy responses to the Brexit vote.

Still, one economist here pointed out that the referendum is not legally binding, and that absolute minimum period after a vote to leave would be two years.

He would be more worried that he loses a bet over Donald Trump becoming the US President, than that of Brexit happening, he quipped.

This article was first published on June 21, 2016.
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