Iran rial plunges to new lows as US sanctions loom

The currency has been sliding for months because of a weak economy. (File photo: Reuters)
Updated 24 June 2018
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Iran rial plunges to new lows as US sanctions loom

  • The dollar was being offered for as much as 87,000 rials, compared to around 75,500 on Thursday
  • The currency has been sliding for months because of a weak economy

DUBAI: The Iranian rial plunged to a record low against the US dollar on the unofficial market on Sunday, continuing its slide amid fears of returning US sanctions after President Donald Trump in May withdrew from a deal on Tehran’s nuclear program.
The dollar was being offered for as much as 87,000 rials, compared to around 75,500 on Thursday, the last trading day before Iran’s weekend, according to foreign exchange website Bonbast.com, which tracks the unofficial market.
Iran’s semi-official news agency ISNA said the dollar had climbed to 87,000 rials on Sunday from about 74,000 before the weekend on the black market, and several Iranian websites carried similar reports.
The currency has been sliding for months because of a weak economy, financial difficulties at local banks and heavy demand for dollars among Iranians who fear the pullout by Washington from the nuclear deal and renewed US sanctions against Tehran could shrink the country’s exports of oil and other goods.
The fall of the national currency has provoked a public outcry over the quick rise of prices of imported consumer goods.
Merchants at the mobile phone shopping centers Aladdin and Charsou in central Tehran protested against the rapid depreciation of the rial by shutting down their shops on Sunday, the semi-official news agency Fars reported.
A video posted on social media showed protesters marching and chanting “strike, strike!” The footage could not be authenticated independently by Reuters.
Hours later, Information and Communications Technology Minister Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi said on Twitter that he visited the protesting merchants.
“I will try to help provide hard currency for (mobile) equipment (imports),” Azari-Jahromi wrote, adding: “The merchants’ activity has now gone back to normal.”
Some of the US sanctions against Iran take effect after a 90-day “wind-down” period ending on Aug. 6, and the rest, most notably on the petroleum sector, after a 180-day “wind-down” period ending on Nov. 4.
The rial has weakened from around 65,000 rials just before Trump’s announcement of the US withdrawal in early May, and from 42,890 at the end of last year — a freefall that threatens to boost inflation, hurt living standards and reduce the ability of Iranians to travel abroad.
In an effort to halt the slide, Iranian authorities announced in April they were unifying the dollar’s official and black market exchange rates at a single level of 42,000, and banning any trade at other rates under the threat of arrest.
But this step has failed to stamp out the unofficial market because authorities have been supplying much less hard currency through official channels than consumers are demanding. Free market trade simply went underground, dealers said.


US stocks fall amid lingering trade war unease

Updated 23 July 2018
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US stocks fall amid lingering trade war unease

NEW YORK: Wall Street stocks retreated early Monday ahead of major earnings reports later this week amid lingering unease over US trade conflicts.
About 40 minutes into trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.1 percent at 25,031.47.
The broad-based S&P 500 dipped 0.1 percent to 2,799.59, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index slid 0.2 percent to 7,801.58.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker heads to Washington on Wednesday to meet with President Donald Trump and try to avert an escalation of tit-for-tat trade tariffs.
Trump already is embroiled in a messy trade spat with China, while negotiations with Canada and Mexico to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement have stalled.
“It is hard to imagine a more difficult trading environment due to worsening trade-war rhetoric, a sharp devaluation of the Chinese currency, an unsynchronized global recovery, and the President commenting on Fed policy,” said Canaccord Genuity strategist Tony Dwyer.
Dwyer noted that any pullback would be a buying opportunity given strong corporate earnings.
Earnings season will heat up further in the coming days with reports from Google-parent Alphabet, Boeing and Amazon, among others.
Also on tap this week will be the first reading on second-quarter US growth, which is forecast to be a blockbuster, albeit a one-time burst.
Among individual stocks, US-listed shares of Fiat Chrysler fell 2.3 percent, while Ferrari slumped 4.8 percent after the sudden exit of chief executive Sergio Marchionne due to health reasons.
Amazon dipped 0.7 percent after Trump again attacked the company on Twitter, swiping at the “Amazon Washington Post” and suggesting the company should face antitrust charges.
The Washington Post is owned by Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos, but is now owned by the online retail giant.