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LONDON, March 12 (Reuters) - The European Union's banking watchdog said it has postponed this year's stress test of lenders until next year so that banks can focus on their businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.
The European Banking Authority (EBA) said the postponement of the stress test will allow banks to prioritize continuity in core operations, including support for customers.
"For 2020, the EBA will carry out an additional EU-wide transparency exercise in order to provide updated information on banks exposures and asset quality to market participants," it said in a statement.
The Paris-based watchdog said national banking regulators could make "full use" of the flexibility they have in rules to support the banking sector.
Non-essential visits by supervisors to banks could also be postponed and deadlines for reporting some data to regulators could be put back, EBA said.
Some of the capital buffers at banks have been designed for use during a downturn to ensure continued lending to the economy, it said.
Lenders should also be prudent when it comes to deciding on dividends and banker bonuses, the watchdog added. There was also "flexibility" in applying EBA guidelines for deteriorating loans.
Separately, the European Central Bank, which supervises top lenders in the euro zone, said banks can have relief on the amount of capital they must hold beyond the core regulatory minimum. (Reporting by Huw Jones Editing by Rachel Armstrong and Carmel Crimmins)