Pakistan Foreign Currency Exchange Rates – A currency trader counts Pakistani rupee bills as he prepares to exchange US dollars in Islamabad, Pakistan, Dec. 11, 2017. /Caren Firouz/File Photo
KARACHI, Pakistan, Jan. 26 () — The Pakistani rupee fell 9.6% against the dollar on Thursday, central bank data showed — the largest single-day fall in more than two decades — in a slump that hit the International Monetary Fund could induce to resume lending to the country.
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The drop comes a day after FX firms lifted the exchange rate cap, a key demand from the IMF as part of its economic reform program it agreed with the money-poor South Asian country.
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The official value of the currency closed on Wednesday at 255.4 rupees against the dollar of 230.9, the central bank said.
Faced with a severe balance of payments crisis, Pakistan is desperate for external financing with less than three weeks of import coverage in its foreign exchange reserves, which are down $923 million to $3.68 billion according to the latest figures.
Pakistan provided $6 billion in aid to the IMF in 2019. It was topped up last year by another $1 billion to help the country after devastating floods, but then the IMF suspended payments in November as Pakistan failed to make more progress with fiscal consolidation.
The lender announced on Thursday that it would send a mission to the country at the end of January to discuss restarting the scheme.
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In addition to wanting the government to take fiscal measures, the IMF is pushing for a transition to a market-determined exchange rate regime, something the IMF underlined in its statement on Thursday.
Currency companies said on Wednesday they have lifted the limit on the country’s welfare because it is creating “artificial” disruptions in the economy.
Wednesday’s action by FX dealers, whose open market rates differ from those announced by the central bank, had a cascading effect on official exchange rates on Thursday.
According to Pakistani brokerage firm JS Global, the fall in the official share price was the largest in absolute and percentage terms since 1999.
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In the free market, the rupee weakened from 243 rupees to the dollar to 262, down about 7% after a 1.2% loss the previous day, according to trading data from the Pakistan Stock Exchange Association (ECAP).
“We have asked the central bank to raise interbank rates to help fight the black market,” said ECAP chairman Malik Bostan.
The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and the Ministry of Finance did not respond to a request for comment.
Attempts to defend the rupee by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar since his appointment in September, including reported interventions in the foreign exchange market, have run counter to IMF advice.
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However, the Pakistani stock market reacted positively to the fall in the rupee, with the KSE 100 index rising by more than 1,000 points or 2.5%.
“The depreciation of the rupee removes some uncertainty about the future roadmap of the economy and the relaunch of the IMF program to which the market is responding positively,” said Tahir Abbass, head of research at Arif Habib Limited.
Topline Securities, a Karachi-based brokerage firm, said the sharp fall in foreign exchange reserves from $8 billion in September to $4.6 billion on Jan. 13 led to a widening spread between official and open market rates and created a black hole. dollar market due to low supply.
The sudden fall in interest rates hit the banks hard. According to two commercial bank officials operating in Pakistan, banks that used to borrow 230 rupees per dollar to make payments by opening positions are now required to make payments at a rate of 250 rupees.
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Officials said on the condition of anonymity that banks that lacked sufficient dollar receipts suffered the most.
While the move increases the likelihood of IMF funding resuming, Pakistan is also battling decades-long inflation, which economists fear will now worsen. Most goods imported into Pakistan, including fuel, are paid for in dollars.
“This will significantly boost the already heightened price pressures in the economy,” said Pakistani macroeconomist Sakib Sherani, adding that consumer price indices (CPIs) are moving towards levels previously unseen in the country.
In the first half of the current financial year, which ends in June, average inflation was 25%. The central bank is also tightening monetary policy sharply, with policy rates also at their highest level in decades, and growth has come to an abrupt halt.
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The ensuing economic crisis will also put political pressure on the government, with former Prime Minister Imran Khan demanding an early general election.
Reporting by Ariba Shahid of Karachi and Asif Shahzad of Islamabad; writing Gibran Peshimam; Edited by Muralikumar Anantharaman, Shri Navaratnam and Simon Cameron-Moore
Ariba Shahid is a journalist from Karachi, Pakistan. It mainly covers economic and financial news from Pakistan as well as stories related to Karachi. Ariba previously worked at DealStreetAsia and Profit Magazine. Fastest currency converter to get USD 1 to Pkr, SAR to Pkr, GBP to Pkr or Euro to Pkr rates by Pakistan’s leading currency exchange company
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