The total balances of several Middle Eastern economies with commercial banks in the industrialised countries improved during the first three months of this year, according to figures from the Bank for International Settlements (BIS).

The increases appear to reflect the unexpected strength of oil prices this year.

Net deposits with OECD banks from all sectors of the Saudi economy rose by nearly $7,000 million during the first three months of this year to more than $53,000 million, while Kuwaiti deposits rose more than $1,000 million. World oil prices have been running at about $2.50 a barrel higher so far this year. A look back at last year’s BIS figures shows that the positions of the two countries changed little in the first quarter of 1995.

Other Middle Eastern states show a mixed picture. Iranian deposits in OECD banks have risen steadily while debts to the banks have fallen. The Egyptian economy’s bank balance is still strongly positive, but its assets have fallen since the end of 1995. The Algerian position also improved during the first quarter.