Pakistan

Emerging Asia is set to be the world’s fastest-growing region again in 2015, skirting the contagion from Russia’s crisis and riding the fall-out from weak commodity prices, according to Fitch, the credit rating agency. Nevertheless, structural frailties stalk seven out of 10 countries in the region, with surging debt levels a particular concern, the agency said.

The region, excluding China, is expected to expand by 5.9 per cent in 2015 and 6.1 per cent in 2016 – compared to an average for global emerging markets of 4.1 per cent and 4.5 per cent respectively, Fitch said in a report. These forecasts compare with the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) estimates that developing economies would this year grow at 4.3 per cent, accelerating to 4.7 per cent in 2016. Read more

In another unhappy turn for Pakistan, China’s president Xi Jinping postponed a state visit to the country on Saturday after three weeks of anti-government protests. Moody’s, one of the three big international credit rating agencies, warned this was a credit negative for the country because it would delay “Chinese aid and a host of deals between the countries”.

Such deals with China, Pakistan’s largest trading partner, are reported to be worth $34bnRead more

“When eating an elephant, take one bite at a time”, US Army officer and Vietnam veteran Creighton Abrams once said.

In his new book, The Rise of the New East, Ben Simpfendorfer does just that. His elephant is “The East”, the group of almost 50 emerging markets ranging from Turkey to China that is home to well over half of the world population.

Simpfendorfer gives his topic a thorough treatment. While his insights seem logical and intuitive, taken together they give an impressive oversight of into key trends shaping the region. beyondbrics noted five insights that particularly stood out. Read more

By Gavin Bowring, Asean Confidential

It’s rare to hear of Pakistan as Asia’s best performing stock market. But over the last 6 months, the Karachi Stock Exchange is up 33.4% in local currency terms, far exceeding any other Asian market, while the Pakistani Rupee has appreciated 11% year-to-date. Pakistan also returned to the international bond markets for the first time in 7 years in April, selling US$2bn in five and 10-year sovereign debt, the latter yielding 8.25% and over-subscribed 14 times. Read more

As India’s current account deficit ballooned to unsustainable levels last year, the government slammed the breaks on gold imports with duty hikes and new rules on re-export of the yellow metal. The result was that the jewellery industry hit a standstill.

However, according to Pakistani authorities, India’s official inflows of gold have simply shifted to unofficial channels. Time for action. Read more

The IMF’s 3-year $6.6bn loan to Pakistan has come just in time. As the FT reported, the loan may “stave off a balance of payments crisis, cheering investors concerned that foreign reserves had sunk to about six weeks worth of imports.”

Chart after the break. Read more

When Pakistan’s newly-elected prime minister Nawaz Sharif arrives in Islamabad this week he may take heart from the country’s surging stock prices.

But a reality check will quickly make him realise the tough task ahead in turning around an increasingly vulnerable economy. A country without regular electricity supplies can’t put too much faith in something as fickle as a stock market rally. Read more

Source: KSE

With a 17 per cent rally this year in the Pakistan stock market driven largely by hopes of a Nawaz Sharif election win, it might have seemed that his apparent victory was in already in the price.

But investors clearly believe there is still a little more juice the engine. The benchmark KSE 100 index rose 1.6 per cent to a record high in Monday trading, as many business people celebrated the former prime minister’s expected return to power. Read more

As far as investors on the Karachi stock exchange are concerned, the result of Pakistan’s parliamentary election on May 11 is already a done deal.

They’ve driven the market to record highs on the prospect that opposition leader Nawaz Sharif will be returned to power. On Tuesday the exchange’s KSE-100 broke through the 19,000-level for the first time and more record highs are expected before the election’s over. Read more

Is Pakistan’s political transition in danger of succumbing to its economic woes? That’s a question increasingly making the rounds among the country’s businessmen as pro-democracy activists look towards the first-ever transfer of power from one civilian administration to another without at least some military involvement.

Almost two weeks have passed since prime minister Mir Hazar Khan Khoso took charge to oversee parliamentary elections due on May 11. While he has named a 14-member cabinet, Khoso still does not have a finance minister. Read more

Pakistani stockbrokers talk on their phones as they watch the latest share prices during a trading session at The Karachi Stock ExchangeThe decision by Pakistan’s central bank on Friday to cut its discount rate by 50 basis points to 9.5 per cent was a widely-anticipated move – a measure meant to give an impetus to new investments, and part of an easing cycle of 250 bp this year. The interest rate cuts are helped by falling inflation which is forecast to stay below 10 per cent for the financial year to June 2013, down from 12-14 per cent a year ago.

But long term watchers of Pakistan’s economic trends are eager to note that new investments have plummeted in the past four years since president Asif Ali Zardari led the country back to democracy. Read more

With elections looming in Pakistan by summer 2013, prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf has ordered officials from the ministry of petroleum and natural resources to make certain that there are no shortages of gas this winter.

Ashraf’s order follows some of the shortages of electricity earlier this year which prompted angry street protests. Any repeat of demonstrations over gas shortages as winter temperatures get near freezing in parts of Pakistan – as happened last year (pictured) – would hardly help the prospects of Ashraf’s ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) returning to rule the country for another five years. Read more

What’s a finance minister to do when his own cabinet colleagues disbelieve his figures?

Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Pakistan’s finance minister, is finding out the hard way. The respected former World Bank economist has had his inflation data challenged by other ministers, with one of them saying the figures are “out of tune with reality”.

It’s not that his colleagues are interested in statistics. But they are very interested in the parliamentary elections due to be held by the middle of next year – and they’re scared the voters will be angry with the official data. Read more

The plight of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl shot by the Taliban for publicly demanding the right of women to be educated, has shone a global spotlight on the failings in the country’s social development. Read more

Pakistan appears to have warmed up to the idea of allowing fuel imports from India, following this week’s visit to Delhi by Asim Hussain, the country’s petroleum minister.

The move adds to the growing push in both nuclear armed south Asian countries for closer economic ties. In October 2011, Pakistan announced its intention to grant the most favoured nation status to India, reversing years of resistance from Islamabad on this count, while in April this year, India decided to allow foreign direct investments from PakistanRead more

Pakistan’s businesses should be celebrating this month’s interest rate cut of 50 basis points, which brought down the rate down to a maximum of 10 per cent.

But many critics argue it will take more than rate cuts to pull Pakistan’s economy out of trouble. Read more

Pakistan’s equity investors are eagerly awaiting news from the country’s central bank when it reveals its policy on future interest rates on Friday.

On Thursday, the Karachi Stock Exchange’s main index, the KSE-100, reached an all-time high of 15,815 points, comfortably overtaking the previous peak reached in April 2008. In part, the enthusiasm was driven by falling interest rates. But would further cuts finally get the economy moving? Read more

By Raffaello Pantucci

What do  you do about attracting investment if you are a remote corner of China, best-known internationally for your ethnic tensions?

If you are Xinjiang, you invest heavily in a blockbuster economic exhibition. Urumqi is this week hosting its second annual China-Eurasia Expo, opened this year by premier Wen Jiabao, a clear upgrade from last year’s star host, vice premier Li Keqiang.

Leaders and/or ministers from seven countries flew in, giving credence to Wen’s claim that the Expo aimed ‘to build a new bridge of friendship and cooperation across the Eurasian continent…and make Xinjiang a gateway.’ But it’s along way from prime ministerial declarations to the investment that Xinjiang badly needs. Read more

Drone attacks, political tension, a hidden independence war… Pakistan is living through some dark hours.

And that is true in a literal sense as well. For more than a year, Pakistani cities have faced up to 20 hours a day without electricity. The blackouts are putting a drag on economic growth, stalling everyday life for many Pakistanis and sparking mass protests across the country.

One reason is a near total inability to get the population to pay energy bills. But Kamal Munir of the Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge points to another culprit: privatisation. Read more

Mark Mobius, executive chairman at Templeton Emerging Markets, tells the FT’s Henny Sender that volatility is the biggest worry, not just for emerging markets but for all markets around the world. Meanwhile, frontier markets such as Pakistan are worth considering for investment, especially when the news is at its worst.