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France lets banks release capital buffer to keep up lending

PARIS, March 18 (Reuters) - France's financial stability board has decided to let banks release extra capital they have been required to hold as a countercyclical buffer against risks, France's finance minister said on Wednesday.

Bruno Le Maire told journalists on a conference call after chairing a meeting of the board that the buffer would be reduced to zero next month, freeing up 8 billion euros ($8.7 billion) in capital for French banks to help them boost lending.

The buffer had been due to rise next month to 0.5% of banks risk-weighted assets from 0.25% currently. ($1 = 0.9166 euros) (Reporting by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Sandra Maler)