Iran devalues rial rate by more than half

Updated 07 July 2013

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.


S&P 500 inches closer to record high

Updated 12 August 2020

S&P 500 inches closer to record high

  • US stock market index returns to levels last seen before the onset of coronavirus crisis

NEW YORK: The S&P 500 on Tuesday closed in on its February record high, returning to levels last seen before the onset of the coronavirus crisis that caused one of Wall Street’s most dramatic crashes in history.

The benchmark index was about half a percent below its peak hit on Feb. 19, when investors started dumping shares in anticipation of what proved to be the biggest slump in the US economy since the Great Depression.

Ultra-low interest rates, trillions of dollars in stimulus and, more recently, a better-than-feared second quarter earnings season have allowed all three of Wall Street’s main indexes to recover.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq has led the charge, boosted by “stay-at-home winners” Amazon.com Inc., Netflix Inc. and Apple Inc. The index was down about 0.4 percent.

The blue chip Dow surged 1.2 percent, coming within 5 percent of its February peak.

“You’ve got to admit that this is a market that wants to go up, despite tensions between US-China, despite news of the coronavirus not being particularly encouraging,” said Andrea Cicione, a strategist at TS Lombard.

“We’re facing an emergency from the health, economy and employment point of view — the outlook is a lot less rosy. There’s a disconnect between valuation and the actual outlook even though lower rates to some degree justify high valuation.”

Aiding sentiment, President Vladimir Putin claimed Russia had become the first country in the world to grant regulatory approval to a COVID-19 vaccine. But the approval’s speed has concerned some experts as the vaccine still must complete final trials.

Investors are now hoping Republicans and Democrats will resolve their differences and agree on another relief program to support about 30 million unemployed Americans, as the battle with the virus outbreak was far from over with US cases surpassing 5 million last week.

Also in focus are Sino-US tensions ahead of high-stakes trade talks in the coming weekend.

“Certainly the rhetoric from Washington has been negative with regards to China ... there’s plenty of things to worry about, but markets are really focused more on the very easy fiscal and monetary policies at this point,” said Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management in Chicago.

Financials, energy and industrial sectors, that have lagged the benchmark index this year, provided the biggest boost to the S&P 500 on Tuesday.

The S&P 500 was set to rise for the eighth straight session, its longest streak of gains since April 2019.

The S&P 500 was up 15.39 points, or 0.46 percent, at 3,375.86, about 18 points shy of its high of 3,393.52. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 341.41 points, or 1.23 percent, at 28,132.85, and the Nasdaq Composite was down 48.37 points, or 0.44 percent, at 10,919.99.

Royal Caribbean Group jumped 4.6 percent after it hinted at new safety measures aimed at getting sailing going again after months of cancellations. Peers Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. and Carnival Corp. also rose.

US mall owner Simon Property Group Inc. gained 4.1 percent despite posting a disappointing second quarter profit, as its CEO expressed some hope over a recovery in retail as lockdown measures in some regions eased.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners 3.44-to-1 on the NYSE and 1.44-to-1 on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 35 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 50 new highs and four new lows.