UPDATE 1-Russia's central bank lifts forecast for 2021 banking sector profit

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MOSCOW, April 26 (Reuters) - Russia’s central bank has lifted its forecast for the banking sector’s profit this year to between 1.5 and 1.7 trillion roubles ($20 billion-$22.7 billion), a central bank official said on Monday, due to lower-than-expected provisions against non-performing loans.

The central bank had previously forecast the sector would post between 1.2 trillion and 1.4 trillion roubles in profit this year, down from 1.6 trillion roubles in 2020.

Alexander Danilov, head of the central bank’s banking supervision department, told reporters the bank had now raised its forecast following a strong first quarter.

Russian banks generated 578 billion roubles in first quarter profit, up 9% from the same period of last year, thanks to strong interest and commission income coupled with growing lending and lower provisions.

Russia’s top banks Sberbank and VTB have both promised to increase net profit this year from 2020, as the economy is showing signs of improvement after shrinking 3.1% last year as it was hit by the coronavirus pandemic and low oil prices. ($1 = 74.9100 roubles) (Reporting by Tatiana Voronova; Writing by Alexander Marrow and Katya Golubkova; Editing by Susan Fenton)