Venezuela foreign reserves fall to lowest since 2003
CARACAS, April 29 (Reuters) - Venezuela's international reserves have dropped to their lowest level in nearly 12 years, $18.985 billion, amid lower crude oil revenues and heavy debt service on its global bonds.
Latest data on the bank's web site showed the level of international reserves, as of April 27, had dropped by nearly $2 billion from $20.849 billion at the start of April. www.bcv.org.ve/
It was the lowest level since September 2003.
Venezuela and state oil company PDVSA in April paid $685 million in interest on global bonds and face payments of $985 million in May, according to Thomson Reuters data.
The OPEC nation relies on the oil industry for more than 95 percent of its hard currency income. As a result, last year's market rout has crimped Venezuela's capacity to import goods, aggravating chronic shortages of consumer staples.
Last week, Venezuelan media and several local economists said that the bank had converted part of its gold reserves into at least $1 billion in cash through a swap with Citibank.
That, they said, was intended to make more foreign currency available to President Nicolas Maduro's government for debt service.
Central Bank officials have not commented on reports of the gold swap, and were not immediately available to comment on the reasons for the fall in reserves. (Reporting by Corina Pons; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne and Brian Ellsworth; Editing by W Simon)
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