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Debt payments dent SBP-held foreign exchange reserves

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  • SBP’s forex reserves decrease by $36 million to $4.2 billion.
  • Reserves enough for less than a month’s worth of imports.
  • IMF funding is critical for Pakistan to shore up its reserves.

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP)-held foreign exchange reserves fell further as the cash-strapped nation met its debt obligations to avoid a possible default, with the financing avenues contracting amid a stalled International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme.

In its weekly bulletin, the SBP said that its foreign exchange reserves have decreased by $36 million to $4.2 billion as of the week ended March 31, which will provide an import cover of less than a month.

The net forex reserves held by commercial banks stand at $5.51 billion, $1.3 billion more than the SBP, bringing the total liquid foreign exchange reserves of the country to $9.75 billion, the statement mentioned.

Pakistan’s $350 billion economy continues to dwindle amid financial woes and the authorities struggle to strike a staff-level agreement with the IMF.

The Washington-based lender has been in talks with the Pakistani authorities since end-January to resume the $1.1 billion loan tranche held since November, part of a $6.5 billion Extended Fund Facility (EFF) agreed upon in 2019.

The IMF funding is critical for Pakistan to unlock other external financing avenues to avert a default on its obligations. 

The IMF has asked Pakistan to secure assurances on external financing from friendly countries and multilateral partners to fund its balance of payment gap for this fiscal year, which ends in June.

In this regard, Saudi Arabia has assured the Washington-based lender that it would provide $2 billion in additional deposits to Pakistan, according to a report published in The News.

The assurance from Saudi Arabia helped the Pakistan rupee recover from a historic low and boosted investors’ confidence in the stock market, sending it above the 40,000 points mark.

Minister for Finance and Revenue Ishaq Dar also held a meeting with US Ambassador to Pakistan Donald Blome, which, according to sources, has assured America’s support for Pakistan to unlock the stalled IMF programme.

However, World Bank and Asian Development have projected Pakistan’s GDP to fall below 1% in the ongoing fiscal year, while warning that the non-completion of the IMF programme, failure to secure financing from key bilateral partners and political instability may result in an eruption of a major macroeconomic crisis.

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Pakistani stocks are rising, and the KSE-100 breaks the 69,000 barrier.

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The benchmark KSE-100 Index increased 1.76 percent on Monday, passing beyond the 69,000 barrier for the first time in its history. This maintained Pakistani stock market’s record-breaking run, as investors remained upbeat about potential rate cuts by the central bank.

The most recent advances also follow Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s iftar dinner given by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Makkah, at a time when Riyadh is anticipated to announce an approximately $1 billion investment in Reko Diq, one of the world’s greatest reserves of copper and gold.

After reaching a high of 69,720.03, the KSE-100 Index concluded at 69,619.98 with a net gain of 1,203.20 points by the time trading was closed for the day. This was due to international investors, both individual and institutional, making purchases.

The meeting between Shehbaz and the Saudi crown prince, also referred to as MBS, may open doors for investment in a variety of industries, including mining, energy, and agriculture.

With record-high energy and interest rates driving up the cost of conducting business to an unaffordable level, investors are clamoring for foreign investment to prop up the economy.

Any improvement in this area would not only contribute to the rupee’s appreciation but also increase the value of cheap equities due to the anticipated purchasing frenzy, as buyers will not pass up the chance to purchase at the reduced prices.

However, there is a big question mark over the heightened expectations that the State Bank of Pakistan will begin reducing interest rates following the consumer price index (CPI) showing a steady fall in inflation over the past three months, particularly the greater than anticipated decline in March.

The reason is that, given Islamabad’s desperation to secure another package from the Washington-based lender, there is an impending hike in gasoline costs in addition to power and gas charges. This move will further sustain the inflationary pressure under the IMF criteria.

Meanwhile, the most recent US data has reduced expectations for potential rate reduction by the Federal Reserve, which is driving up the price of gold as speculative purchasing occurs.

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The price of gold is still rising in Pakistan.

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24 carat gold’s per tola pricing increased by Rs 600 on Monday, when it was sold for Rs 245,700 as opposed to Rs 245,100 the day before.

Ten grams of 24 carat gold cost Rs 514 more than the selling price of Rs 210,648; ten grams of 22 carat gold cost Rs 193,094 instead of Rs 192,622, according to the All Sindh Sarafa Jewellers Association.

Silver prices per tola and per ten grams stayed at Rs 2,650 and Rs 2271.94, respectively.

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According to the Association, the price of gold went up $5 to $2,355 on the global market from $2,350.

24 carat gold saw a rise in prices per tola on April 6 of Rs 4,900. It was sold on Saturday for Rs 245,100 as opposed to Rs 240,200 the day before.

The price of 10 grams of 24 carat gold went up by Rs4,200, and it was sold for Rs210,134 as opposed to Rs205,932. The price of 10 grams of 22 carat gold went up to Rs192,622 from Rs 188,772, according to the All Sindh Sarafa Jewellers Association.

Silver prices per tola and per ten grams stayed at Rs 2,650 and Rs 2271.94, respectively.

According to the Association, the price of gold went up $44 to $2,350 on the global market from $2,306.

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PIA privatization: “Investors from Saudi Arabia and Qatar are briefed by Pakistan.”

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According to information provided, investors in the aviation industry in Qatar, Abu Dhabi, and Saudi Arabia were approached and given a briefing on the privatization of PIA.

According to additional sources, investors received information about “profitable” investments in the international lines operated by FIA and PIA.

Since National Airline’s debts and losses were transferred to the withholding firm prior to privatization, all of them have been paid off.

According to the sources, every obstacle to the PIA’s privatization has been removed.

It is important to note that, as the government moves on with its privatization plan, up to three Gulf nations—the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar—have expressed interest in purchasing the financially troubled Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), according to sources.

Previously, purchasers were asked to submit proposals by May 3 for the privatization of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA).

The Pakistani government intends to sell 51 percent of the national flag carrier’s shares; the remaining 49 percent will be owned by the government. The government’s goal is to privatize solely the PIA’s aviation department.

According to the officials, the business that purchases the 51 percent of the shares would continue to hold administrative authority over PIA.

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