UPDATE 2-Morocco c.bank keeps key interest rate unchanged

* Key rate unchanged at 3.25 pct

* C.bank boosts liquidity by 4.8 bln dirhams

* Bank more cautious on 2011 GDP growth forecast
(Adds governor’s comments)

By Souhail Karam

RABAT, March 29 (Reuters) – Morocco’s central bank held its
benchmark interest rate at 3.25 percent on Tuesday but axed
reserve requirements on a savings account product in a move
that would add 4.8 billion dirhams in liquidity to the banking
system.

Keeping the benchmark interest rate unchanged stemmed from
a lack of monetary pressures on generally stable prices and
resilience in an economy reliant on agriculture and tourism,
the central bank said in a statement.

“In this context where … inflation forecast is consistent
with the price stability objective and the balance of risks is
slightly tilted to the upside, the board has decided to keep
the key rate unchanged at 3.25 percent,” Bank al-Maghrib said
in a statement.

(For the latest on Moroccan inflation, click on
[ID:nLDE72H1UX])

(Full text of the central bank’s statement at
http://tinyurl.com/5wrbvku)

The central bank has kept rates on hold since March 2009,
when it cut them by 25 basis points to 3.25 percent.

Speaking at a press conference later on Tuesday, Governor
Abdellatif Jouahri said savings accounts known locally as
“Compte Sur Carnet” will no longer be subject to a 6 percent
reserve requirement imposed by the central bank.

“Those saving accounts are no longer considered as
deposits, which exempts banks from putting reserves to back
them up and increases liquidity by 4.8 billion dirhams ($599.3
million),” he said.

He estimated around 78 billion dirhams were held under
saving accounts subject to the measure.

In its statement, the bank said analysis of monetary
developments to end-February show a continued slowdown in M3
growth, down to 4.3 percent year-on-year from 5.3 percent in
the last quarter of 2010.

“Under these conditions, the money gap remained negative,
suggesting the absence of monetary pressure on prices. Bank
credit grew 6.6 percent in February, up from 6 percent in
January,” it said.

On the potential impact on Morocco of turmoil in the Middle
East, where revolts are threatening the rule of longtime
leaders in Libya, Syria and Yemen, Jouahri said only that
remittances from expatriate Moroccans in Libya had dropped.

“We have not noticed anything that indicates shaky
confidence … or withdrawals on deposits. Confidence is still
there despite the revolts,” he said.

He noted, however, that any impact on European countries’
growth from sovereign debt problems may affect demand for
Moroccan products.

The central bank expects the $95.2 billion economy to grow
between 4 and 5 percent in 2011, a cautious forecast compared
with 5 percent projected in this year’s budget.

Jouahri said he expects bank lending growth to pick up to
10 percent in 2011, from around 7 percent growth in 2010.

“This increase should come mainly from financing of small
and medium enterprises,” he said.
(Editing by Dan Grebler)

UPDATE 2-Morocco c.bank keeps key interest rate unchanged