Iran devalues rial rate by more than half

Updated 07 July 2013
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Iran devalues rial rate by more than half

TEHRAN: Iran's central bank yesterday drastically devalued the national currency's fixed subsidized rate against the dollar, as the Islamic republic struggles to shore up its faltering economy.
The rial has lost more than two thirds of its value on the open market since early 2012, when the United States and the European Union imposed harsh economic sanctions curbing Iran's ability to export oil and conduct financial transactions.
The central bank yesterday was selling one US dollar for 24,779 rials at the subsidized rate available only to select importers to procure basic commodities and medicine, according to the bank's website at http://cbi.ir
That rate was a 102-percent increase from 12,260 rials for one dollar that had been kept artificially low since January 2012.
The new "reference" rate is still far stronger than the dollar available to ordinary buyers and travelers at the unofficial open market, which was 33,200 rials per dollar at midday.
By increasing the so-called reference rate, the central bank scrapped its rate used at an "exchange center" that put goods importers in contact with exporters to exchange funds at a rate of around 25,000 to the dollar.
The exchange center, launched late last September, had managed to control the rial's free fall amid increasing international pressure on Iran.
Suspecting Iran's nuclear program has military objectives, Western powers have reinforced a raft of economic sanctions aimed at coercing it into cutting back on uranium enrichment despite Tehran's insistence its atomic ambitions are peaceful.
The sanctions have cost the country billions in vital oil revenues and left it struggling with a shrinking economy, raging inflation and high unemployment.
Yesterday's development came after days of media reports and official denials about pending changes on the official currency market.
According to reports, the budget for the year ending in March 2014 — signed by outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in mid-June but the details are not publicized — gave the central bank permission to increase the official exchange rate.
Ahmadinejad's critics accuse his government of misusing the now scrapped cheap dollar, and of failing to feed the market with sufficient foreign currency or provide funds earmarked for essential goods including medicines.
The price of medicine has risen sharply in the past year.
In June, the Health Ministry's Shams-Ali Rezazadeh said the price of domestically produced drugs was set to rise by at least 35 percent, while imported medicine would go up by an average of 90 percent.


Iraq’s southern oil exports hold near record in January

Updated 20 min 2 sec ago
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Iraq’s southern oil exports hold near record in January

  • Southern exports so far in 2019 close to 3.6 mbpd — tracker
  • OPEC-led oil supply cut deal started in January

LONDON: Oil exports from southern Iraq are holding close to a record high so far in 2019, according to shipping data and an industry source, which could raise questions over whether OPEC’s second-largest producer is following through on a deal to cut output.
Southern Iraqi exports in the first 21 days of January averaged close to 3.6 million barrels per day, according to tanker data on Refinitiv Eikon and separate tracking by an industry source. That’s close to December’s 3.63 million bpd — a monthly record.
The figures suggest there is little sign yet of lower supplies from Iraq, despite a deal by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies to reduce output by 1.2 million bpd as of Jan. 1 to support the market.
“So far, no cuts,” the industry source said on Monday of Iraq’s export rate.
The south is the main outlet for Iraq’s crude. An Iraqi official, the director of Iraq’s Basra Oil Company, on Jan. 11 gave similar figures for January exports to those suggested by the tanker data and source.
Iraq, which has been expanding its oil export capacity, was reluctant to join a previous OPEC-led supply cut effort which began in 2017 and was at times OPEC’s least compliant member with the initiative.
To be sure, the OPEC-led deal applies to production, not exports. It is possible that Iraq could have cut production and maintained exports from crude held in storage, or reduced supply to domestic refineries.
Nonetheless, oil traders and analysts will be looking at exports to gauge whether the deal is lowering supply to the global market. So far, Iraq’s shipments abroad from the north haven’t declined significantly either.
Iraq’s northern exports appear to have held steady in January at about 400,000 bpd, according to tanker data compiled by Reuters and the industry source. That is still far below levels of more than 500,000 bpd in some months of 2017.
Baghdad says it will stick to the accord. Oil Minister Thamer Ghadhban said on Jan. 4 Iraq would keep production at the level of its OPEC target in the first half of 2019.
Under the deal, Iraq agreed to cut production by 141,000 bpd to 4.512 million bpd as of Jan. 1.