March 14, 2012 / 1:02 PM / 6 years ago

Pakistani stocks end up; rupee firms; o/n rates flat

KARACHI, March 14 (Reuters) - Pakistani stocks ended higher on Wednesday, led by Bank Alfalah (BAFL), on expectations of healthy growth and corporate profits, dealers said.

The Karachi Stock Exchange (KSE) benchmark 100-share index rose 0.58 percent, or 77.02 points, to end at 13,360.67 points.

Turnover rose to 347.21 million shares, compared with 186.2 million shares traded on Tuesday.

“BAFL remained in the limelight and its share price increased as investors expect further improvement in its earnings in 2012,” said Samar Iqbal, a dealer at Topline Securities Ltd.

BAFL ended 3.68 percent higher at 16.62 rupees.

In the currency market, the rupee ended firmer at 90.68/75 to the dollar compared to its close of 90.74/77 on Tuesday amid lack of import payments and increased remittances from overseas Pakistanis.

Remittances from overseas Pakistanis rose 23.4 percent to $8.59 billion in the first eight months of the 2011/12 fiscal year, compared with $6.96 billion in the same period last year.

In February, overseas Pakistanis sent back $1.16 billion.

Dealers expect some pressure on the rupee because of rising global oil prices. Oil was trading above $126 a barrel on Wednesday.

The rupee touched a record low of 91.28 to the dollar in January, dragged down by concerns over higher payments for oil imports and Pakistan’s overall economic health.

There was also concern on the trade deficit, which widened by 41 percent to $14.6 billion in the first eight months of the 2011/12 fiscal year, compared with $10.34 billion in the same period the previous year, the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics reported.

Exports in the July-Feb period totaled $15.19 billion, and imports were $29.79 billion.

Dealers said they were also cautious after the International Monetary Fund advised Pakistan to take immediate steps to tackle growing budget pressures and raise interest rates to contain inflation.

The central bank kept the key policy rate flat at 12 percent for the next two months in its monetary policy announcement in February.

The IMF last month projected a widening of Pakistan’s budget deficit in the 2011/12 fiscal year to 7 percent of gross domestic product, compared with the government’s revised budget target of 4.7 percent.

In the money market, overnight rates were unchanged at their top level of 11.90 percent amid tight liquidity in the interbank market. (Reporting by Sahar Ahmed)

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