Pakistan’s central bank is widely expected to raise its key policy rate by 200 basis points (bps) in an off-cycle meeting on Thursday as it struggles to unlock critical funding from the IMF, a Reuters poll showed.
Investors had anticipated an emergency meeting, which is not uncommon in Pakistan. The next meeting of the central bank’s monetary policy committee was originally scheduled for March 16.
All sixteen economists and market watchers surveyed said there would be a hike — 14 of them predicted 200 basis points (bps), while two expected 250bps.
The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has raised rates by 725bps since January 2022.
In its last policy meeting in January, the bank raised the key rate by 100bps to 17 per cent, citing inflationary pressure. Inflation has since increased, with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) clocking in at 27.5 per cent in January.
“CPI for February will be approximately 29-30 per cent and the policy rates need to be adjusted with respect to it,” said Saad Rafi, head of equities Al Habib Capital Markets, a local brokerage firm.
The cash-strapped country is undertaking key measures to secure a $1 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), including raising taxes, and removing blanket subsidies and artificial curbs on the exchange rate.
A consensus amongst most of the participants was that the meeting had been brought forward to help meet IMF requirements of a rate hike that have been reported by the media, and pushed for by the government as it rushes to get a staff level agreement.
“It is certainly damaging as far as the market perception is concerned with regards to SBP’s independence. The independence probably from the government, and not the IMF,” says Fahad Rauf, head of research at Ismail Iqbal Securities.
He said the market had already incorporated a 200bps hike in the last treasury bill auction where the government accepted bids with yields more than 200bps higher than the policy rate. — Reuters
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