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Pakistan’s rupee extends slide, central bank may have lent support

June 12, 2018

The Pakistan rupee slid against the dollar for a second day before paring some losses, dealers said on Tuesday, noting the central bank may have stepped in to stabilise the currency.

The rupee slumped 3.8 percent on Monday in what appeared to be the third currency devaluation by the central bank in seven months amid fears of a balance of payments crisis.

“People were expecting that the dollar will further shoot up, but apparently the central bank has played some role resulting in a slight recovery,” Fawad Khan, head of research at BMA Capital, told Reuters.

“It seems that the rupee will continue to trade around 120 on Tuesday.”

The State Bank of Pakistan is the most influential player in the thinly traded local foreign exchange market and controls what is widely considered a managed float system.

A spokesman for the central bank would not confirm or deny any intervention on Tuesday.

“Intervention, if any, is a purely management decision not necessarily to be shared,” spokesman Abid Qamar said.

The State Bank of Pakistan has allowed the rupee to drop three times since December to try to boost exports amid falling foreign reserves.

The latest apparent devaluation shows signs of vulnerability in Pakistan’s nearly $300 billion economy, as dwindling foreign reserves and a widening current account deficit trigger speculation about going back to the International Monetary Fund for loans for the second time since 2013.

Pakistan’s caretaker finance minister, Shamshad Akhtar, said the interim government had no plans to commence negotiations with the IMF.

“We have looked at the matter within the cabinet. We can’t do any new agreements,” she told a press conference on Tuesday. “It is really for the new government to decide.”

The rupee’s decline threatens to squeeze consumers ahead of a general election set for July 25. The interim setup, which was installed after the outgoing government completed its term on May 31, is supposed to run only day-to-day affairs until a new government assumes office.

The economic outlook has been hurt by the fast depletion of foreign currency reserves, which now stand at just over $10 billion.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s current account deficit is at $14 billion, around 5.3 percent of gross domestic product.



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