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New devaluation in Kazakhstan?

19 august 2015, 16:50
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©REUTERS
©REUTERS

The tenge-dollar exchange rate has significantly increased in a number of banks and exchange offices in Kazakhstan today. Websites of several Kazakhstani banks are displaying exchange rates above 194 tenge per dollar, Tengrinews reports.

Kazkommertsbank set the dollar at 198.67 tenge, Qazaq Banki – at 198 tenge, Forte bank – at 197.5 tenge, Eurasian Bank - 197.4 tenge, CenterCredit - 194.5 tenge.

Screenshot from Kazkommertsbank website

The last and maximum price at which the dollar was traded on the Kazakhstan Stock Exchange (KASE) today equaled to 195 tenge.  Meanwhile, the exchange rate indicated on the website of the National Bank remains at 188.35 tenge per dollar.

The National Bank of Kazakhstan last expanded the pegged corridor of the tenge exchange rate on July 15, 2015 setting it to 170-198 tenge per 1 US dollar. The head of the National Bank Kairat Kelimbetov then promised that the dollar would not exceed 190 tenge in this quarter.

Today's unexpected change of the exchange rate has got people worried and distrustful to the National Bank. 

Astana exchange offices have changed their rate boards several times today. In the beginning of the day things were relatively calm, but as the buzz and uncertainty were escalating, by lunch time some exchangers stopped selling dollars, while others could not decide on the rate and were changing their boards every 5-10 minutes.

Some residents of Astana were checking exchange offices going from one to another trying to buy some dollars. There were people who brought their savings in tenge and just handed in the money to the exchange office clerk saying: “I don’t know how much is in here but I want to convert everything into dollars.”

A Kazakh economist, director of the Center for Macroeconomic Research Olzhas Khudaibergenov shared his opinion on the unfolding events.

"The average rate of tenge was 188.38 tenge per 1 dollar at KASE today. But, of course, everybody paid attention to the fact that the maximum bid was 197 tenge per 1 US dollar. Overall, this is a sign that the exchange rate will crush through the previously set ceiling of 198 tenge in a matter of days. The current pegged corridor was established assuming oil prices were in the range of 55-60 dollars per barrel, but the price is already 48 dollars, and thus the calls of the local producers for a sharp devaluation (of the tenge) will be satisfied," he wrote on his Facebook page.

Khudaibergenov noted that he was against a sharp devaluation, "but apparently, the country will have to go through a borderline scenario." In case there is a devaluation, one should expect what the supporters of a sharp devaluation promised: an increase in competitiveness of local businesses, preservation of jobs and economic growth, he said.

The expert said it was high time for the National Bank to clarify the situation to minimize the negative consequences of the uncertainty, though, “the trust in the National Bank and the tenge will fall even lower anyway.”

Senior analyst of Alpari Anna Bodrova shared her opinion on the causes of the exchange rate hike. According to her, it was caused by one of the large players of the KASE.

"Most likely, a large player came to the stock exchange and decided to push the price up, this sometimes happens. That is, he sold what he had. And that was where 197 tenge per dollar bid came from,"  Bodrova said.  After that, when banks and exchangers saw this, they responded accordingly.

In addition, she said that oil prices also exerted pressure on the tenge. “It is clear that the National Bank spends a lot of money to stabilize the currency, so it is logical to devalue it a little,” she said.

Bodrova expects that the dollar would fluctuate until the end of the week in the range of 188.7-195 tenge per dollar.

By Dinara Urazova, editing by Tatyana Kuzmina (Alisher Akhmetov contributed to the story)


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