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Venezuela’s central bank is down to its last $10.5 billion in foreign reserves, according to the institution’s most recent report on the country’s financials.
Over the remainder of 2017, Caracas needs to fund $7.2 billion in debt payments – an amount that it can only meet if oil prices spike far higher than the ongoing boosts caused by OPEC’s output reduction agreement.
Current reserves stand 66 percent lower than levels in 2011, when the government held $30 billion in foreign currencies to spend on loan repayments and other official business.
"The question is: Where is the floor?" Siobhan Morden, head of Latin America fixed income strategy at Nomura Holdings, told CNN Money. "If oil prices stagnate and foreign reserves reach zero, then the clock is going to start on a default."
Venezuela’s financial report for 2016 stated that roughly $7.7 billion of the remaining $10.5 billion in foreign reserves had been preserved in gold. Last year, in order to fulfill debt obligations, Caracas began shipping gold to Switzerland.
The drastic fall in oil prices in 2014 and widespread corruption have both caused an economic meltdown in the South American country, where citizens had become accustomed to imported goods paid for by fossil fuel revenues.
President Nicolas Maduro has resorted to opening the country’s border with Colombia to allow Venezuelans to purchase necessary medical and day-to-day supplies.
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Venezuelan state-run oil company PDVSA’s default is probable, according to the ratings agency Fitch, which cited the oil giant’s weak liquidity position and high amortization scheduled for 2017 as the causes of the default problem last month.
"Should oil prices remain around current levels, average recovery may lead to additional future defaults to further reduce obligations and allow for necessary transfers to the government," said Fitch’s senior director Lucas Aristizabal.
The company has projected that its oil production will maintain its 23-year-low in 2017.
By Zainab Calcuttawala for Oilprice.com
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Zainab Calcuttawala is an American journalist based in Morocco. She completed her undergraduate coursework at the University of Texas at Austin (Hook’em) and reports on…