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Thursday, July 18, 2024

State Bank of Pakistan Maintains Key Policy Rate Amid Economic Uncertainty

The State Bank of Pakistan maintains its key policy rate at 22 percent for the sixth consecutive meeting, citing ongoing inflationary pressures and economic uncertainties despite a noticeable decline in inflation.

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) announced its decision to maintain the key policy rate at 22 percent, marking the sixth consecutive meeting where the rate remained unchanged.

This decision, the first under the newly elected government, comes amidst economic challenges and ahead of the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) scheduled review for a $1.1 billion disbursement. The SBP’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) cited high inflation, albeit with a noticeable decline, and economic risks as factors influencing the decision.

Despite a decline in inflation from 28.3 percent in January to 23.1 percent in February, inflationary pressures persist, prompting the SBP to adopt a cautious approach. The committee emphasized the importance of continuity in the current monetary stance to achieve the inflation target range of 5-7 percent by September 2025. Additionally, external factors such as rising oil prices and global commodity trends contribute to the uncertainty in the economic outlook, necessitating prudence in monetary policy decisions.

Market Expectations and Analyst Projections

Market expectations and analyst projections align with the SBP’s decision to maintain the status quo on the policy rate. Reports from Bloomberg Economics indicate that the majority of market participants anticipated no change in the policy rate, considering the IMF’s advice for tight monetary policy. However, forecasts suggest a potential easing of monetary policy in April, coinciding with an expected slowdown in inflation to around 20 percent.

A survey conducted by Topline Securities reveals a split among market participants, with 55 percent anticipating no change in the policy rate and the remaining 45 percent expecting a rate cut. The consensus among analysts points towards a cautious approach by the SBP, with a watchful eye on inflationary pressures and the need for sustained economic recovery.

Macroeconomic Outlook and Policy Implications

The SBP’s decision to maintain the policy rate underscores the importance of addressing macroeconomic challenges while fostering economic growth. Despite signs of moderate economic activity and improvements in the external current account balance, inflation remains a primary concern. The MPC’s emphasis on targeted fiscal consolidation and timely external inflows reflects a holistic approach towards stabilizing the economy and achieving long-term sustainability.

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Looking ahead, the SBP remains committed to its mandate of price stability and economic resilience. With ongoing efforts to mitigate inflationary pressures and promote economic recovery, the central bank aims to navigate the evolving global economic landscape while ensuring stability and growth within Pakistan’s financial ecosystem.