World Economy

Singapore Banks Face Credit Risks

Singapore Banks Face Credit RisksSingapore Banks Face Credit Risks

Weaker corporate balance sheets and currency market volatility pose risks to Singapore lenders, though the local banking system remains resilient, the Monetary Authority of Singapore said.

Non-performing loans have increased, and moves in emerging Asian currencies “could exacerbate foreign currency mismatch risks for banks in Singapore,” the Singapore central bank said in its annual financial stability report.

“The turning credit cycle poses risks to Singapore’s banking system. Asset quality remains healthy, but there are signs of increased credit risks alongside weaknesses in corporate balance sheets,” the MAS said. The non-performing loan ratio among Singapore banks rose to 1.5% in the third quarter of 2015, from 1.1% a year earlier, the central bank said. Bad loans have risen in the manufacturing sector, and banks with exposure to trade may see higher credit risks, the monetary authority said.

“It is important for our financial sector to continue to be vigilant to new or growing risks as highlighted in the report as external headwinds and contagion risks have intensified,” MAS deputy managing director Ong Chong Tee said. However, the report also demonstrates that Singapore’s banks, companies and households are “resilient to potential vulnerabilities and shocks,” he added.

The MAS said its annual stress test of Singapore banks showed they would be able “to withstand severe shocks.” The test included a scenario in which the US Federal Reserve raised interest rates more aggressively than expected, and China’s economy experiences a prolonged slowdown.

Singapore banks were also asked to test for a situation where their largest counterparty in the interbank market failed. Chinese banks are the top interbank counterparties for many banks in Singapore, the monetary authority noted.

Loan growth will remain weak “in the near future” amid a slowdown in China, regional currency weakness and the sharp drop in commodity prices, according to the MAS.

Total lending expanded by 5.4% in the third quarter from a year earlier, down from 7.4% growth in the third quarter of 2014, driven by a slowdown in non-resident, non-bank loans. Non-bank loans to China were especially weak, the monetary authority said.