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How a strong US dollar is endangering other currencies

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NEW YORK: The dazzling rise of the US dollar, which has hit one record after another, is raising fears of a currency crash of a severity not seen since the 1997 Asian financial crisis reverberated around the world.

The Federal Reserve’s rapid, steep interest rate increases and the relative health of the US economy has caused investors to flood into the dollar, driving the greenback up and sending the British pound, Indian rupee, Egyptian pound and South Korean won, and others to uncharted depths.

“The moves are definitely getting extreme,” said Brad Bechtel of Jefferies, warning that the exchange rates could fall further creating a “dire situation.”

Most other major central banks also are forcefully tightening monetary policy to bring down inflation, but so far the moves have not helped stabilised the currency market, nor has Japan’s direct intervention to support the yen last week.

Many fear that the same will be the case with the Bank of England’s plan announced Wednesday to conduct emergency purchases of government bonds to support the pound.

“We have our doubts that the BoE’s plan will be the silver bullet to kill all of the angst that has been pressuring the pound […] considering its plan doesn’t have permanency,” said Patrick O’Hare of Briefing.com.

Others, especially emerging market countries, are even worse off. The Pakistani rupee has lost 29 percent of its value against the US dollar in the past year, and the Egyptian pound has weakened by 20 percent.

Those countries, and others like Sri Lanka and Bangladesh which “benefitted from cheap and plentiful liquidity,” when interest rates were low during the pandemic, “are all suffering from tighter global liquidity,” said Win Thin, head of currency strategy at BBH Investor Services.

“Those countries with the weakest fundamentals are likely to be tested first but others may join them,” he warned.

Those countries rely on imported oil and grain which have seen prices soar, widening their trade deficits and fueling inflation, massive blows to their currencies.

The appreciation of the US currency has exacerbated the problem, since many commodities are denominated in dollars.

Already in a fragile position, Pakistan was hit with historic flooding in August, which prompted the government to discuss a restructuring of its debt.

“There are severe pressures on the financial system now. And it’s only a matter of time until there’s a larger crisis somewhere in the world,” warns Adam Button of ForexLive.

Bad memories

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen earlier this week said she has not yet seen signs of “disorderly” financial market developments amid the interest rate hikes.

For countries like Taiwan, Thailand, or South Korea, which also dependent on energy imports, China’s zero-COVID policy has caused their exports to this key trading partner to plummet.

Larger economies like China and Japan have contributed in recent weeks to the turbulence on the foreign exchange market. The Japanese yen plunged its lowest level in 24 years, while the Chinese yuan hit its weakest in 14 years.

Fear of destabilisation brings back memories of the 1997 Asian financial crisis, which was triggered by the devaluation of the Thai baht.

Malaysia, the Philippines, and Indonesia followed, which panicked foreign investors and led to massive outflows of capital, pushing several countries into a severe recession and South Korea to the brink of default.

At the time, the collapse of the baht was in part linked to its fixed parity with the dollar, which forced the Thai government to support its currency, depleting its foreign exchange reserves, which was unsustainable in the face of market forces.

Argentina eventually was forced to abandon its peg to the dollar and defaulted in late 2001 — the largest sovereign default in history.

Erik Nelson of Wells Fargo said that is a key difference between 2022 and 1997.

“Now there’s not a lot of fixed exchange rates,” he said. “I’m frankly more worried about developed markets right now.”

Lebanon, one of the few to still peg its currency to the greenback, on Thursday announced a drastic devaluation, taking the country’s pound to 15,000 to the dollar from the previous fixed value of 1,507.

In the United States, by contrast, where inflation has soared to a 40-year high “the Fed sees strong dollar as a blessing,” said Christopher Vecchio of DailyFX, noting that it helps “insulate the economy from more significant price pressures.”‘

A strong currency means the country pays less for its imported products.

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The cost of a liter of petroleum increased by much to Rs 8.14.

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Prices for gasoline and high-speed diesel were raised by the government on Monday by Rs4.53 and Rs8.14, respectively, for the upcoming two weeks.

In relation to this, the ministry of finance released a notice.

Diesel now costs Rs 290.38 per litre, while petrol is now priced at Rs 293.94 per liter following the most recent increase.

Additionally, light diesel cost Rs6.54 more per litre, to Rs174.34. A 6.69% increase in price to Rs193.8 per liter was made for kerosene oil.

The impact of the developing Middle East situation and the expanding global market are the main factors contributing to the transformation.

Before the most recent spike, the price of gasoline and HSD had risen by almost $4 and $4.50 per barrel, respectively, on the global market during the previous two weeks.

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Finance Minister Aurangzeb claims that Pakistan and the IMF are talking about a new multibillion-dollar initiative.

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The South Asian country is drawing to a close a $3 billion loan program with the International Monetary Fund that lasted nine months and was intended to address a balance-of-payments crisis that had put it in danger of defaulting last summer.

Pakistan has started negotiations for a new multi-year IMF loan program for “billions” of dollars, Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb said in a Washington interview, with the final $1.1 billion tranche of that arrangement likely to be approved later this month.

Aurangzeb, a former banker who started his job last month, stated, “The market confidence, the market sentiment is in much, much better shape this fiscal year.”

“We really started talking with the Fund this week to get into a larger and longer program for that reason,” he continued.

A representative for the IMF informed AFP that the organization is “currently focused on the completion of the current Stand-by Agreement program,” which is a nine-month program that is expected to be finished soon.

The spokesperson went on, “The Fund staff is prepared to start initial talks on a successor program as the new government has expressed interest in a new program.”

“Third-year curriculum”
Aurangzeb’s journey to Washington will also include attendance at the IMF and World Bank’s spring meetings, which begin in earnest on Tuesday and have two distinct goals: supporting the world’s most indebted countries and aiding governments in the fight against climate change.

The IMF’s revised World Economic Outlook will be released to coincide with the start of the meetings, which bring together academics, representatives from the private sector, civil society, finance and development ministries, and central bankers to debate the state of the global economy.

Allegations of election tampering plagued Pakistan’s February 2019 elections, resulting in the imprisonment and disqualification of opposition leader Imran Khan and the persecution of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.

The unstable alliance that surfaced, headed by Shehbaz Sharif, is currently charged with bringing about an economic recovery through the imposition of several controversial austerity measures.

Aurangzeb stated, “I do believe that we will be requesting for a three year program.” “Because in my opinion, that is what we need to help carry out the structural reform agenda.”

He went on, “I do think we’ll start getting into the contours of that discussion by the time we get to the second or third week of May.”

Keeping the US-China rivalry in check
Pakistan is in a difficult situation as the two nations have started an expensive trade war because of its strong economic ties to both China and the United States.

When asked how the Sharif government intends to handle its commercial relationships with the two largest economies in the world, Aurangzeb responded, “From our perspective it has to be a and-and discussion.”

“The United States is our biggest trading partner, and it has consistently provided us with support and assistance with our investments,” he stated. Therefore, that relationship will always be extremely important to Pakistan.

He was alluding to the nearly 1,860-mile-long China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which was built to offer China access to the Arabian Sea, when he added, “On the other side, a lot of investment, especially in infrastructure, came through CPEC.”

According to Aurangzeb, Pakistan has a “very good opportunity” to participate in the trade war on par with nations like Vietnam, whose exports to the US have increased significantly as a result of tariffs placed on some Chinese items.

He stated, “We already have a few examples of that working.” “However, we must truly scale it up.”

reform initiative

Pakistan is currently engaged in a privatization campaign to sell off its underperforming state-owned businesses (SOEs) as part of the structural reform package agreed upon by the previous government.

The nation’s flag carrier, Pakistan International Airlines, is the first SOE on the list.

In regards to potential bidder interest, Aurangzeb stated, “we will find out in the next month or so.”

He said, “Our goal is to proceed with that privatization and see it through to completion by the end of June.”

Other businesses may soon follow if the government’s privatization of the PIA proceeds smoothly.

He declared, “We’re building a whole pipeline,” and added, “We want to really accelerate that over the next couple of years.”

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Owners of oil tankers stop the provision of fuel in favour of their demands.

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The Association declared on Monday that, in response to what it deemed to be an “unfair” measurement by the relevant authorities, gasoline delivery will stay suspended as of Tuesday.

According to the Oil Tankers Owners’ Association, they attempted to resolve their complaints with Deputy Commissioner Islamabad and Pakistan State Oil (PSO), but to no effect.

The Oil Tankers Owners Association has yelled slogans in support of their demand while parking their containers in the PSO depot.

The owners of oil tankers declared that they would not end their strike until their demands were met, accusing the administration of being to blame for the fuel crisis.

The association requested that the authorities abide by their requests, which included filling under a metered system. It further stated that the deal reached on February 20 had been broken by the authorities.

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