Are OPEC Financial Holdings a Danger to U.S. Banks or the Economy?

EMD-79-45: Published: Jun 11, 1979. Publicly Released: Jul 16, 1979.

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Concern exists that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries' (OPEC) financial holdings, both U.S. Government securities and deposits in U.S. banks, might be a threat to the United States due to their size or the possibility of their rapid liquidation.

These holdings do not constitute an immediate danger to U.S. banks or the economy; however the implications of a long-term withdrawal of these funds from the United States and U.S. financial institutions could be adverse. Prior to 1974, statistics for OPEC countries in Asia and Africa were published individually. Since then, however, statistics for the Asian and African OPEC countries have been aggregated, making it difficult to identify individual OPEC accounts and holdings. Disaggregated financial data are currently published for most countries; among major countries of the world, only data for individual OPEC countries are suppressed. Similarly, the data on export and import services for OPEC countries are not individualized. The arguments cited by Government officials for aggregating the financial data were unconvincing. The evidence suggests that the withholding of these data may have come about as a result of understandings reached between former Department of Treasury officials and the countries involved; special commitments of financial confidentiality may have been made in exchange for their purchases of U.S. securities. It has continued for foreign and other policy reasons.

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