Thursday, August 4, 2011

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will have to repay over $8 billion obtained under the Standby Arrangement (SBA) from the IMF within the next four years up to fiscal year 2014-15 since the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) will have to return installments of the $1.4 billion loan in the ongoing fiscal year starting February 24, 2012, The News has learnt.

According to the repayment schedule agreed between the IMF and Pakistan, which is available with The News, Pakistan will have to return the first due installment of $413 million — 258 million Special Drawing Rights (SDR) — to the IMF on February 24, 2012. This will be paid back to the Fund from foreign currency reserves held by the SBP.

The foreign currency reserves rose to over $18 billion in the wake of a comfortable external account balance but pressure will start to be felt on that side after the initiation of repayments to the IMF loan as well as the possibility of a further dip in exports owing to a decline in the prices of cotton in the international market. The higher remittances are rescuing Pakistani authorities but many economists term this phenomenon ‘mysterious’ and require further analysis to know reasons for achieving unprecedented growth in this sector. An analysis done by SBP shows that 68 percent transactions of money received from abroad can be termed small transactions. 

The existing $11.3 billion SBA program is going to expire on September 30, 2011 as the last two tranches of $3.2 billion seem like a pipedream in the aftermath of Islamabad’s failure to pursue key reforms as well as the emergence of the revenue figures fiasco that has severely tarnished the credibility of the economic team. 

“The first installment of SBA program worth $413 million (258.4 million Special Drawing Rights) of the IMF will be due on Feb 24, 2012; the second installment worth $413 million on May 25, 2012; and third installment of $113 million on June 29, 2012,” say official documents showing details of repayment arrangements between Pakistan and IMF.

The SDR is an international reserve asset, created by the IMF in 1969 to supplement the existing official reserves of member countries. SDRs are allocated to member countries in proportion to their IMF quotas. The SDR also serves as the unit of account of the IMF and some other international organisations. One US dollar is equivalent to 1.6 SDR. Islamabad will have to repay 258 million SDR on August 24, 2012, which translates into over $400 million and 71 SDR on October 2012. The total repayments in year 2012 will stand in the range of 1.418 billion SDR, 2.362 billion SDR in 2013, 1.230 billion SDR in 2014 and 193 million SDR in 2015.

The foreign currency reserves of Pakistan stand in the range of over $18 billion out of which over $8 billion is loans obtained from the Fund under the existing SBA program. After excluding the IMF loan, the position of foreign currency reserves, which will stand in the range of $10 billion, will be exposed to vulnerabilities. 

Despite the outstanding performance of remittances as well as improved performance of the exports sector, Pakistan is left with no option but to seek another IMF programme in the range of $3 to $5 billion to give other donors and investors the signal that the country is under tight scrutiny of the IMF.
KARACHI: At least six people were killed, 15 others injured and dozens feared trapped when a dilapidated five-storey residential building collapsed in the congested area of Lyari here on Thursday morning.

As the rescue operation led by the Army Corps of Engineers continued late into the night, the collapse of Qasr-e-Ruqqaiya situated in Moosa Lane, Baghdadi, resulted in the death of six-year-old Areesha, her brother 22-year-old Bilal along with 25-year-old Imran and an elderly woman, Hawa Bai. The bodies of two other women were recovered late at night.

More deaths were feared as hordes of spectators in the narrow and congested lanes, and a slow response from the government in providing equipment and services, delayed the rescue work.

U.S. mortgage rates dropped to new lows after the latest round of gloomy economic data hurt Treasury yields, according to Freddie Mac's weekly survey of mortgage rates.
Mortgage rates tend to follow Treasury yields, which have fallen after data showed the U.S. economy grew a much weaker-than-expected 1.3% in the second quarter while first-quarter growth was cut to less than a quarter of what was originally reported.
"In fact, the first half of this year was the worst six-month period since the economic recovery began in June 2009," said Frank Nothaft, Freddie's chief economist.
The news sent 15-year fixed and five-year adjustable-rate loans to historic lows, the mortgage-finance agency said.
On the other hand, Mr. Nothaft said "there were indications that the housing market is firming."
The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.39%, for the week ended Thursday, down from 4.55% the previous week and last year's rate of 4.49%, setting a new low for the year. Rates on 15-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.54%, down from 3.66% last week and 3.95% a year earlier.
Five-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages averaged 3.18%, a drop from 3.25% last week and 3.63% a year ago. One-year Treasury-indexed ARM rates averaged 3.02%, falling from 3.25% in the prior week and 3.55% in the prior year.
To obtain the rates, 30-year fixed-rate mortgages required an average payment of 0.8 point, while 15-year fixed rates required an average 0.7 point payment. Five-year adjustable rate mortgages required an average 0.6-point payment, while one-year adjustable rates required an average 0.5 point payment. A point is 1% of the mortgage amount, charged as prepaid interest.
Write to Drew FitzGerald at
ABC News’ Devin Dwyer (@devindwyer) reports: On the president’s 50th birthday, First Lady Michelle Obama says her husband’s ever graying hair is “proof” he’s handled his the job well, and deserves re-election in 2012.

“Every day, I see Barack make choices he knows will affect every American family,” Mrs. Obama said in an email blast to supporters. “That's no small task for anyone -- and more proof that he's earning every last one of those gray hairs.”

The message is the latest effort by the president’s re-election campaign to use the occasion of Obama’s birthday to energize his followers and, indirectly, encourage the contribution of their time and money in the months ahead.

“This next year will challenge us all to work harder than ever before,” Mrs. Obama said, “but the crucial thing is that you're here now, early on, helping to build this campaign.”

The first lady said she and her daughters wanted supporters to send birthday wishes to the president by signing an electronic card. 

Stocks spiraled downward Thursday as investors buckled under the strain of the global economic slowdown and the failure of policy makers to stabilize financial markets.
The selling began in Europe and continued in the U.S., where stocks plunged from the opening bell. The Dow Jones Industrial Average posted its worst point drop since the financial crisis in December 2008, falling 512.76 points, or 4.31%, to 11383.68. Oil and other commodities were also hammered. Even gold was a safe haven no more as prices fell. Tokyo's market slid on Friday morning, falling more than 4% in early trading.
"It was an absolute bloodbath," said John Richards, head of strategy at RBS Global Banking & Markets.
There was no one single catalyst for the downdraft, traders said. Rather it reflected multiple concerns that have mounted over the past month and came to a head this week. Worries about a U.S. default, settled by a last-minute fix to lift the country's debt limit on Tuesday, have given way to broader fears about the failing health of the domestic economy. That will lead to close scrutiny of Friday's jobs report.
Investors are also questioning how much longer the recent run of strong corporate earnings can continue. Amid other troubles, corporate profits have been a rare bright spot.
In Europe, leaders are grappling with a widening debt crisis, which started in Greece and spread to Italy and Spain. An earlier bailout of Greece now appears insufficient. There are growing concerns about European banks and their heavy investments in the debt of countries with big fiscal problems.
The nervousness among investors is being reflected in the extraordinary rally in U.S. Treasury bonds, regarded as a safe haven for investors in times of turmoil. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which falls as prices rise, tumbled to just 2.46% at 3 p.m. Thursday, the lowest since October of last year.

NEW YORK (TheStreet ) -- Gold prices reversed directions Thursday, falling from record highs as spooked investors took profits.

Gold for December delivery closed down $7.30 to $1,659 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. The gold price has traded as high as $1,684.90 and as low as $1,642.20 while the spot gold price was down $8.40, according to Kitco's gold index.
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Silver prices settled down $2.32 to $39.46 an ounce. The U.S. dollar index was soaring 1.62% at $75.10 while the euro was down 1.39% vs. the dollar. 
Broad selling hit the gold and silver market as the Dow Jones Industrial Average tanked more than 300 points and some funds and investors were forced to raise cash to cover losses in other assets. Gold has rallied 5% in the past two weeks making it a prime target for profit taking.
There is also speculation that the CME could raise margin requirements on a 100 ounce contract like it did with silver in May after the metal had skyrocketed to almost $50 an ounce. A margin hike means that traders would have to put up more money to buy a gold futures contract so the result is that a lot of investors are forced to sell, which decreases volatility in the long run. Over the short term, however, it can get ugly as traders exit their positions.
Jerry Lewis
Jerry Lewis has been ousted from the Muscular Dystrophy Assn. telethon he has hosted for nearly half a century -- and the comedy community is outraged.  
On Wednesday night, the MDA released a statement saying it was severing its association with the 85-year-old performer. Lewis won't appear on this year's Labor Day weekend telethon.
The announcement provoked an outcry from the comedy community, even as the circumstances surrounding Lewis' departure remained mysterious.  Here’s what some of L.A.’s comics had to say:
Tom Arnold: "Younger comics were coming out [to the show] for Jerry Lewis. Jerry let them fly. They would use the word ‘genius’ -- and he certainly is. It’s been handled so poorly. To me, Jerry should be able to come back and say goodbye.... It's probably time for him to retire.  But he should get to say goodbye. They screwed up. If they'd promoted this as Jerry Lewis' final telethon they could've gotten guys like George Clooney, which would've opened the door to God knows who. It would've been a big deal and showbiz loves big deals."

The university, site of a 2007 rampage, swiftly issues alerts and cancels classes after teens on campus report seeing a man they thought might have a gun. No gunman is found, and no one is hurt.

 Virginia Tech, the site of a 2007 shooting rampage that left 33 people dead, faced a scare Thursday as authorities ordered a campus lockdown after three youths reported seeing a man carrying what they believed to be a gun concealed by a cloth.

Alerts were issued. Classes were canceled. Students were urged to stay indoors. And for more than five hours, police from several law enforcement agencies scoured the campus, even releasing a composite sketch as they searched for the reported gunman.

No such man was discovered. Still, campus and police officials were pleased with the first major test of the university's revamped security measures.