Chairman and Chief Editor
Bedour Ibrahim

he pound swung between gains of over 1% and a loss of 3%

Egypt Is Closer to Ending Devaluation of Year’s Wildest Currency

Thursday 12/January/2023 - 06:04 PM
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Egypt’s third major currency devaluation in less than a year appeared closer to achieving its aim، with signs that the foreign-exchange market may be stabilizing despite a whipsawing pound.

The North African nation has allowed its currency to weaken in phases and the latest devaluation، which started last week، is finally helping to narrow the gap with prices quoted in the black market. 

After suffering the biggest one-day drop since late October on Wednesday، the pound swung between gains of over 1% and a loss of 3%. Many traders in the black market paused operations after the plunge this week.

The pound is still the world’s worst performer this year، and measures of short-term historical volatility show the swings are the most extreme globally. On Wednesday، it pared losses from a record after state banks sold dollars، according to Citigroup Inc. 

Foreign exchange was scarce for months in Egypt as the economy of the Middle East’s most populous country contended with the rising cost of commodities from food to fuel، triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The pound has lost about 33% of its value since late October، when Egypt said it would embrace a flexible exchange rate، a move that helped it clinch a $3 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund. 

“The end of the devaluation process is close and we are now heading towards more flexibility،” Citigroup strategists including Luis Costa and Lydia Rangapanaiken said in a report. “Although we do not expect the authorities to shift to a free-floating regime، further flexibility is expected، in line with the fund’s requirements.”

Trading volumes on Wednesday surged to about $831 million، according to Citigroup، an indication that the clearing of a backlog of unfulfilled demand for dollars is underway and is set to ease pent-up demand for the US currency. 

In a sign that foreign capital is trickling back into the country، investors from other Arab countries made net purchases of around 7 billion pounds ($236 million) in Egyptian Treasury bonds in the secondary market on Wednesday، according to the local stock exchange’s website.

An auction of Treasury bills on Thursday is shaping up as a key test of investor appetite for Egyptian assets among foreigners. 

Last year، the reluctance to allow for a steeper currency adjustment was a turnoff for international buyers، whose retreat from the local debt market helped push up the yields on Egypt’s Treasury bills by the most since 2016.

Dollar inflows into the interbank market reached as much as $750 million on Wednesday from an average of $150 million previously، state MENA news agency cited a banker as saying. 

The pound was 0.6% stronger against the dollar on Thursday، trading around 29.61 at the close in Cairo. It slumped as much as 14% to a record low of 32.1 on Wednesday. 

The parallel rate declined to 29-30 on Wednesday from 31-33، according to Citigroup’s strategists. Wednesday’s moves “reflect steps in the right direction،” they said.