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Monetary policy: SBP hikes interest rate to 16% to curtail inflation

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  • “Decision aims to ensure elevated inflation does not become entrenched,” SBP says.
  • SBP increased rate cumulatively by 900 basis points since Sept 2021 to Nov 2022.
  • MPC says it will continue to carefully monitor developments affecting prospects for inflation, growth.

KARACHI: The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Friday raised the key policy rate by 100 basis points to 16% — the highest since 1999.

The central bank, in a statement, issued after the meeting said that the decision reflects the MPC’s view that inflationary pressures have proven to be stronger and more persistent than expected.

“This decision is aimed at ensuring that elevated inflation does not become entrenched and that risks to financial stability are contained, thus paving the way for higher growth on a more sustainable basis,” the MPC said.

The SBP noted that amid the ongoing economic slowdown, inflation is increasingly being driven by persistent global and domestic supply shocks that are raising costs.

“In turn, these shocks are spilling over into broader prices and wages, which could de-anchor inflation expectations and undermine medium-term growth,” the statement read, adding that consequently the rise in cost-push inflation cannot be overlooked and necessitates a monetary policy response.

The MPC further noted that the short-term costs of bringing inflation down are lower than the long-term costs of allowing it to become entrenched. Meanwhile, curbing food inflation through administrative measures to resolve supply-chain bottlenecks and any necessary imports remains a high priority.

The central bank increased the rate by a cumulative 900 basis points in 15 months (September 2021 to November 2022) to 16%.

The MPC, Since the last meeting, noted three key domestic developments, including:

  • Headline inflation increased sharply in October, food prices also accelerated significantly, and core inflation has risen further
  • A sharp decline in imports led to a significant moderation in the current account deficit in both September and October
  • After incorporating Post-Disaster Needs Assessment of floods, the FY23 projections for growth of around 2% and current account deficit of around 3% of GDP are re-affirmed.

However, the committee mentioned that higher food prices and core inflation are now expected to push average FY23 inflation up to 21-23%. 

Key projections for FY23

  • Growth rate in FY23 to clock in at 2%
  • Current account deficit to remain around 3% of GDP shared
  • Average FY23 inflation to be calculated around to 21-23%
  • Forex reserves expected to improve gradually
  • Inflation expected to fall toward upper range of the 5-7% 

External sector

The MPC mentioned that on the financing side, inflows are being negatively affected by domestic uncertainty and tightening global financial conditions as major central banks continue to raise policy rates. 

The financial account recorded a net inflow of $1.9 billion during the first four months of FY23, compared to $5.7 billion during the same period last year.

“Looking ahead, higher imports of cotton and lower exports of rice and textiles in the aftermath of the floods should be broadly offset by a continued moderation in overall imports due to the economic slowdown and softer global commodity prices,” it said.

The committee predicted the current account deficit is expected to remain moderate in FY23, with foreign exchange reserves gradually improving as anticipated external inflows from bilateral and multilateral sources materialise.

The central bank said that if the recent decline in global oil prices intensifies or the pace of rate hikes by major central banks slows, pressures on the external account could diminish further. 


Monetary and inflation outlook

As part of its forward guidance, the MPC said that it will continue to carefully monitor developments affecting medium-term prospects for inflation, financial stability, and growth.

The central bank noted that headline inflation rose by almost 3½ percentage points in October to 26.6% year-on-year, driven by normalization of fuel cost adjustments in electricity tariffs and rising prices of food items.

Energy and food prices rose by 35.2 and 35.7% year-on-year, respectively. Meanwhile, core inflation increased further to 18.2 and 14.9% year-on-year in rural and urban areas respectively, as rising food and energy inflation seeped into broader prices, wages and inflation expectations.

“As a result of these developments, inflation projections for FY23 have been revised upwards. While inflation is likely to be more persistent than previously anticipated, it is still expected to fall toward the upper range of the 5-7% medium-term target by the end of FY24, supported by prudent macroeconomic policies, orderly Rupee movement, normalising global commodity prices and beneficial base effects,” the statement read.

Moreover, it was noted that in line with the slowdown in economic activity, private sector credit continued to moderate, increasing only by Rs86.2 billion during the first quarter of the fiscal year 2022-23 compared to Rs226.4 billion during the same period last year.

The central bank attributed this deceleration to a significant decline in working capital loans to wholesale and retail trade services as well as to the textile sector in the wake of lower domestic cotton output, and a slowdown in consumer finance. 

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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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