BUCHAREST, March 2 (Reuters) - The Romanian central bank's hard currency reserves, excluding 103.7 tonnes of gold, fell by 92 million euros ($116 million) to 25.9 billion euros in February, signalling possible central bank intervention to prop up the leu.
Central bank data showed inflows stood at 3.473 billion euros, coming mainly from changes in the minimum reserve requirement on hard currency liabilities for commercial banks, inflows in the finance ministry's account, transactions on the interbank market and income from foreign reserves management.
Outflows totalled 3.565 billion euros, reflecting changes in the minimum reserve requirement and payments from the European Commission account, interbank transactions, payments to service Romania's public external debt.
"The data clearly shows the central bank continued to intervene throughout the month. I estimate their interventions at an overall 700-800 million euros, pretty much the same as in January," said one dealer with a foreign bank in Bucharest.
"The large outflow sums have been compensated by large foreign currency inflows, consisting mainly of EU structural funds," he added.
Over the last several months, dealers and economists have suspected the central bank intervened sporadically as economic concerns weighed on the leu currency.
The leu has fallen sharply against the euro this year in line with other regional currencies, as investors fled local markets on fears of deep economic problems and a potential financing crisis in Romania.
Earlier this year, it hit a record low of 4.3530 per euro , compared with 3.0870 hit in July 2007.
Payments maturing in March to service external public debt totalled 112 million euros.