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Russia's top bank Sberbank said on Monday it had lowered the interest rates it charges on consumer loans to below the level they were at before an economic crisis and that it saw higher demand for such loans.

"In our opinion the economy in general is ready for a lowering of rates, since inflation has slowed and is continuing to slow," Sberbank said in a statement.

The bank, a dominant player in Russia with around a third of total banking assets, lowered rates on its main line of consumer loans by between 1.1 and 4.1 percentage points, it said.

It said the main range of rates on its secured loans was now at 14.9-22.9 percent from 16.5-25.5 percent before.

Russian banks hiked rates for borrowers in late 2014 as an economic crisis deepened and the central bank tightened policy.

Rates started to fall last year, but lending growth across the sector has remained anaemic.

Sberbank's move to lower rates may stimulate borrowing at a time when there are signs the economy is beginning to stabilise.

Sberbank said it had issued 156 billion roubles ($2.4 billion) in consumer loans in the first quarter of 2016, three times as many as in the same period a year earlier.

The last time Sberbank cut rates so significantly was in June 2015, it said.

($1 = 64.9366 roubles) (Reporting by Oksana Kobzeva and Alexander Winning, editing by Jason Bush and Adrian Croft)

 

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