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Key takeaways from SBP’s off-cycle MPC meeting

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In an off-cycle review, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) raised its key interest rate by 300 basis points on Thursday, exceeding investor expectations, as the cash-strapped country seeks to encourage the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to release critical financing.

The key rate of the SBP now stands at 20%, its highest level since October 1996, with consumer price inflation now at its highest level for almost 50 years.

The Monetary Policy Committee’s (MPC) next meeting is set to be held on April 4.

Arif Habib Limited compiled key takeaways from the meeting’s outcome, here they are:

– National CPI has swelled up to 31.5% YoY during February 2023, with core inflation at 17.1% in urban and 21.5% in the rural basket.

– The near-term inflation outlook has deteriorated post external and fiscal adjustments undertaken recently.

– The MPC has raised its CPI forecast for the year to 27-29% against the November 2022 forecast of 21-23%.

– Inflation in upcoming months can drift higher, albeit, at a gradual pace, as the impact of said adjustments unfolds.

– The committee noted that external account challenges persist despite the significant contraction in the current account deficit, recorded at $242 million in January 2023 (lowest since March 2021).

– Pressure on forex reserves and rupee-dollar parity also remain in place, regardless of a 67% decline in current account deficit in the Jul-Jan 2023 period given ongoing debt repayments, and lower financial inflows amid “rising global interest rates and domestic uncertainties.”

– The conclusion of the ninth review of the IMF’s EFF remains crucial to address external-sector vulnerabilities.

– Additionally, the MPC urged the implementation of energy conservation measures to alleviate pressure on the external account and to meet vital imports from other sectors.

– Fiscal consolidation remains critical for economic stability and recent measures like increase in GST and excise duties, restricted subsidies, and adjustment in energy prices should help contain the widening fiscal and primary deficits.

– This will complement the ongoing monetary tightening and help bring down inflation over the medium term.

– The committee also assessed the impact of further monetary tightening on the country’s financial stability and near-term growth.

– It was observed that “risks to financial stability remain contained, given that financial institutions are broadly well capitalized.”

– However, growth will be compromised as a trade-off.

– However, the MPC reiterated that the long-term costs of letting inflation become entrenched outweigh the immediate costs of bringing it down.

– Barring any future shocks, the committee believes that today’s decision has pushed the real interest rate into positive territory on a forward-looking basis.

– The medium-term CPI target remains unchanged at 5-7%, by end-FY25. 

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The KSE-100 Index rises following a sharp decline in the previous session.

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The government is considering filing a treason case under Article 6 against PTI founder Imran Khan, former president Arif Alvi, and former deputy speaker Qasim Suri. On Tuesday, the KSE-100 Index was up more than 1.3% during early trading, following a day of roughly a 2 percent loss due to growing political unrest and the potential banning of the party.

However, the benchmark index of the Pakistan Stock Exchange was trading at 79,074.63 by 11:49 a.m., having gained 535.45 points, or 0.68 percent, after reaching an intraday high of 79,578.04.

Market analysts said that political tensions were the primary cause of the KSE-100’s earlier Monday decline of 1578.71 points, or 1.97 percent.

They did point out, though, that a correction was a reasonable reaction to the protracted upswing that allowed the benchmark mark index to reach 81,839.86 on July 18.

As a result of interest rate cuts and the possibility of another IMF program, the Pakistan Stock Exchange has gained 22.97 percent so far this year. The cycle began on June 10 with a 1.5 percent decrease in borrowing costs.

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In interbank trade, the US dollar crushes the Pakistani rupee.

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During interbank trade on Tuesday, the US dollar’s value increased by 15 paisas, reaching Rs 278.45.

It is important to remember that Fitch Business Monitor International expressed concern about the possibility that Pakistan’s economic stability may be jeopardized by the ongoing political unrest.

The fragile situation of Pakistan’s economic recovery was emphasized by Fitch in its most recent Pakistan Country Risk Report, which also noted that economic activity has been impeded by urban protests.

(PTI),In spite of multiple successful judicial appeals, the founder of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) is expected to stay behind bars, the article notes, underscoring the fragile political environment.

With no urgent plans for new elections, this scenario suggests that the coalition administration will remain in office for the next 18 months.

Fitch also described an eventuality in which the government could change and be replaced by a technocratic administration. This suggests that the government of Pakistan would carry out the reforms demanded by the IMF, contributing to the 3.2% GDP growth expected in 2024–2025.

The policy rate has stabilized above projections, while the research predicted it may reach 16 percent this fiscal year and 14 percent the following year.

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Pakistan’s gold prices per kilogram dropped.

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When 24-karat gold dropped by Rs. 500 to Rs. 250,500 per tola on Tuesday, the price of gold fell once again on both the local and international gold markets.

By Rs429 to Rs214,763, 10 grams of gold cost less, according to the Gold Sellers Association.

Gold’s price per ounce dropped to $2391 on the international market by $11.

At Rs2920 per tola, the price of silver did not change.

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