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SPI based weekly inflation down 0.19 pc

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: The Sensitive Price Indicator (SPI) based weekly inflation for the week ended on February 01 for the combined income groups witnessed decrease of 0.19 percent as compared to previous week.

The SPI for the week under review in the above mentioned group was recorded at 222.38 points against 222.80 points last week, according to the latest data released by Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS).

As compared to the corresponding week of last year, the SPI for the combined group in the week under review witnessed increase of 1.69 per cent.

The weekly SPI has been computed with base 2007, 2008=100, covering 17 urban centers and 53 essential items for all income groups.

Meanwhile, the SPI for the lowest income group up to Rs 8,000 also decreased by 0.40 percent as it went down from 211.94 points in the previous week to 211.1 points in the week under review.

As compared to the last week, the SPI for the income groups from Rs 8001 to 12,000, Rs 12,001 to 18,000, Rs 18,001 to 35,000 and above Rs 35,000, also decreased by 0.35 percent, 0.31 percent, 0.24 percent and 0.03 percent respectively.

During the week under review, average prices of 16 items registered decrease, while 13 items increased with the remaining 24 items’ prices unchanged.

The items, which registered decrease in their prices during the week under review included potatoes, onions, tomatoes, chicken (live), bathing soap, garlic, gur, pulse masoor, pulse gram, LPG cylinder, pulse mash, sugar, red chilly powder, wheat, vegetable ghee, and wheat flour.

The items, which registered increase in prices included Hi Speed Diesel, kerosene oil, petrol, bananas, eggs (farm), pulse moong, Shirting, rice Irri-6, long cloth, firewood, mutton, rice basmati (broken), and powdered milk.

The items with no change in their average prices during the week under review included bread plain, beef, milk fresh, curd, mustard oil, cooking oil, vegetable ghee, salt powder, tea, cooked beef, cooked pulses, tea prepared, cigarettes, lawn printed, georgette, gents sandal, gents shoes, ladies shoes, gas charges, electric bulb, washing soap, match box, and telephone local call charges.

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Gwadar gains economic vitality after free zone launched

F.P. Report

BEIJING: For decades, Pakistanis have dreamed for Gwadar to become the next Dubai. Yet the port city in southwestern Pakistan, despite its advantageous location on the shores of the Arabian Sea, had long remained underdeveloped in the past, Chinese state media has reported.

Recently, the economy of the prominent city in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) plan seems to gear up, especially with the launching of the Gwadar free trade zone on Jan. 29, reviving hopes for it to become a global trade hub.

Launching of the free trade zone was a historic moment. It is the beginning of a dream coming true, Ahsan Iqbal, Pakistani Minister for Interior and Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms, said at the launching ceremony, Xinhua news agency said.

Less than a year ago, the Gwadar port complex was still a giant construction site. Now it has become a brand new modern harbor boasting giant brand new cranes, hotels, warehouses, factories and a business center.

The unprecedented pace of development convinced locals of the future of Gwadar.

“Gwadar will lead the take-off of Pakistan’s economy. It will be the next Dubai or Hong Kong,” local banker Masood Awan said.

Gwadar Expo, a two-day trade fair, coincided with the opening of the free trade zone. Muhammad Niazi, a seafood exporter, had planned to represent his company at the event, but failed to get a booth as more than 5,000 companies had vied for just 150 vacancies.

More than 25,000 people visited the trade fair, according to China Overseas Ports Holdings Co. (COPHC), which took over the operation of the port in 2013.

Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) had to increase the frequency of its flights from Karachi to Gwadar from one to two per day, while announcing that a new flight from Pakistan’s capital Islamabad to Gwadar will be open by the end of the year.

Even without a booth, Niazi and his colleagues flew to Gwadar from Pakistan’s largest city of Karachi. He stayed after the trade fair closed on Jan. 30, busy making new business contacts.

“We are determined to expand our business to Gwadar. The speed of development is just amazing,” Niazi said.


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Bitcoin braces for worst week since 2013

Monitoring Desk

WASHINGTON: Digital currency Bitcoin has fallen 30% this week, leaving it on track for its worst week since April 2013.

On Friday the price fell below $7,910 on the Bitstamp exchange, a 12% fall on the day before, but recovered slightly.

But although it is far short of the $19,000 it reached in November 2017, it is still way above the $1,000 level at which it started trading last year.

The fall comes amid a number of recent incidents that appear to have shaken faith in cryptocurrencies.

On Friday, Japan’s financial regulator carried out a surprise check on major Japanese exchange, Coincheck, which last week was subject to a security hack.

The regulator said it had asked the exchange to fix flaws in its computer networks well before last week’s theft by hackers of $530m of digital money.

Also this week, Facebook said it would ban adverts for digital currencies.

Other countries have already expressed concerns about such entities. China and South Korea have banned any new virtual currency launches and have been shutting down exchanges on which they are traded.

The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority warned investors in September they could lose all their money if they buy digital currencies issued by firms, known as “initial coin offerings”.

Bitcoins are created through a complex process known as “mining”, and then monitored by a network of computers across the world.

However, like all currencies its value is determined by how much people are willing to buy and sell it for.

Last year, two of the world’s largest commodity exchanges, the CBOE futures exchange and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, both allowed trading in Bitcoin futures.

Bitcoin is the most widely traded cryptocurrency, but there are scores of others, the majority of which also fell on Friday, according to the price tracker.

The second and third largest virtual currencies, Ethereum and Ripple, plunged more than 20%, before a slight pull-back in the price.


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Vodafone eyes European expansion with Liberty Global deal

Monitoring Desk

LONDON: Vodafone Group, the UK-based telecoms giant, has said it is in talks to buy some European assets owned by US cable company Liberty Global.

The firm said the discussions were at an “early stage” and there was “no certainty” the deal would go through.

The talks concern assets in markets where the firms overlap, including Germany, Czech Republic, and Hungary.

Vodafone emphasised that the talks were not about a merger with Liberty, which owns Virgin Media.

Vodafone, founded in the 1980s, operates in more than 30 countries and boasts more than 400 million customers globally.

The company has historically focused on cellular mobile phone services, but has more recently been expanding its fibre infrastructure, which supports faster internet and data downloading.

Liberty Global is an international television and broadband company that operates in more than 30 countries under names that include Virgin Media, and Telenet.

The company, run by billionaire John Malone, operates in 12 countries in Europe and also has a joint venture with Vodafone in the Netherlands.

The share prices in both companies increased after Vodafone’s announcement.

The telecoms industry has been going through a period of deal-making as phone companies attempt to offer their customers packages of television, broadband, mobile and traditional phone services.

Vodafone issued its statement on the talks after a media report that the two companies were discussing swapping some assets.

The two companies had similar discussions in 2015 that ended without a deal.

“Vodafone confirms that it is in early stage discussions with Liberty Global regarding the potential acquisition of certain overlapping continental European assets owned by Liberty Global,” it said.

“There is no certainty that any transaction will be agreed, nor as to the terms, timing or form of any transaction. Vodafone is not in discussion with Liberty Global regarding a combination of both companies.”

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APBF rejects 20% hike in fuel rates in six months

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: The All Pakistan Business Forum (APBF) has condemned the sixth consecutive hike of petrol prices, showing a jump of around 20% from Rs.70 to Rs.85 per liter during last six months of Sept 2017 to Feb 2018, leading to increasing cost of production ultimately.

The Ministry of Finance kept the rates of petroleum products at the existing level for the month of August 2017 at about Rs70 per liter despite reduction of oil prices in the global market.

In Aug 2017, the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) had recommended the government to reduce the prices of Petrol and High Speed Diesel by Rs3.67 and Rs5.07 per litre respectively for the month of August but the govt maintained the rates at previous level, instead of passing on benefit to the public.

Ibrahim Qureshi flayed the government for increasing prices of petroleum products by over Rs15 per liter in last six month, terming it bad news for the country’s economy. He said though the prices of oil in global market are going up yet the authorities can keep the rates stable by reducing tax ratio which is highest in the region.

He said that against the standard rate of 17 per cent general sales tax, currently the government is charging 31 percent GST on high speed diesel and 17 per cent on other petroleum products including petrol, kerosene oil and LDO.

In addition to the GST, the government was charging highest rates of Petroleum Development Levy from the consumers. Currently, the consumers are paying Rs10 per litre petroleum development levy on petrol, Rs.8 on HSD, Rs.6 per litre on kerosene oil and Rs.3 per litre on the LDO.

In the past, the government did not pass on the full benefit of declining oil prices to the public by imposing heavy taxes. It is the time to relax the duties and absorb the burden of soaring petroleum prices in international market by keeping the prices stable.

Ibrahim Qureshi, terming it a bad news for the country’s economy which was already facing a number of challenges, said that the increase would put extra burden on the consumers.

At a time when country’s trade deficit was further stretched by over 35 percent owing to rise in imports and slow exports growth amidst high cost of doing business, the continuous hike petroleum as well as power tariff is very unfortunate.

As per the notification, the government increased price of HSD by Rs5.92 per litre or 6.58 per cent taking the price from Rs89.91 to Rs95.83 per litre. Diesel is widely used in transport and agriculture sector, and therefore, increase in its price would increase the input cost of farmers.


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Trade body vows to strengthen ties with Iran

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: The top officials of Pakistan’s Quetta Chamber of Commerce and Industry (QCCI) Thursday vowed to enhance trade ties with Iran.

According to IRNA news Agency, Patron-in-chief of QCCI Ghulam Farooq Khan and President Abdul Samad praised the performance of Consulate General of Iran in Quetta for facilitating the Pakistani traders to improve trade ties with Pakistan.

The trade activists said both countries were tied in eternal bonds of friendship and QCCI was encouraging all Pakistani traders who are interested in trade with Iran.

Iranian Consul General Mohammad Rafiei is fully cooperating with QCCI which would also help the two countries to achieve the target of $5 billion trade volume set by the two governments, they said.

They also noted that QCCI with the cooperation of Consulate General of Iran is making all out efforts to strengthen ties between the two neighboring countries in economic sector.

While praising the efforts of Iranian Consulate General, they said that it would help in enhancing ties between Iran and Pakistan in the fields of trade, tourism, industry and many others.

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Aurangzeb new HBL president, CEO

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: The Board of the Habib Bank Limited (HBL) has approved the appointment of Muhammad Aurangzeb as the President and CEO of HBL, according to a stock exchange filing on Thursday.

The letter, however, adds that the appointment is “subject to approval of the Fit and Proper Test by the State Bank of Pakistan.” Aurangzeb is a “respected and seasoned banker with more than 30 years of diverse experience with leading global banks in Pakistan and overseas.”

Aurangzeb started his career with Citibank, first in Pakistan and later in New York. He then joined ABN AMRO Bank is a senior leadership role, rising to the position of the Country Manager in Pakistan. He has since held senior level regional and global positions in ABN AMRO Amsterdam, RBS Singapore and since 2011, with JP Morgan, according to HBL.

The bank’s former president and CEO Nauman Dar retired on December 31. The bank did not specify any reason for his exit.

Dar’s term at the helm of the country’s largest bank was marred by a penalty of $225 million that the New York State Department of Financial Services recently imposed on HBL for its non-compliance with risk management and anti-money laundering rules.

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PIA ends discounts

F.P. Report

KARACHI: Pakistan International Airline (PIA), which is facing financial crunches, on Thursday announced to withdraw discounted rates for senior citizens and handicapped individuals.

The incumbent government also aimed at privatising the national flag carrier in order to arrest the increasing losses. The PIA administration also halted its flights to some international destinations due to the losses.

Earlier, senior citizens, who are either 65-years-old or above, were entitled to get the 20% discount on flights from and to UK, Ireland, USA, Canada, Europe and Asia. It also offered discounts for domestic flights in Economy, Economy Plus, and Business class.

PIA was offering 40 percent discount for disabled citizens and 20% discount for their attendant on flights from Bombay, Delhi, Dhaka, Kabul to Pakistan.

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China imports more cars in 2017

Monitoring Desk

BEIJING: China imported more cars in 2017, the China Automobile Dealers Association (CADA) announced on Thursday.

About 1.21 million automobiles were imported, 16.8 percent growth from 2016, the association said.

Some 904,000 cars were bought from dealers, up 0.6 percent, reversing the decline seen in 2015 and 2016.

Parallel imports, vehicles bought from other markets to be sold in China, surged 29.8 percent to 172,000 units. Sports utility vehicles (SUVs) dominated the market, making up 88 percent of the all parallel imports.

Unlike traditional imports, the parallel-import scheme allows local auto dealers to directly purchase vehicles from foreign markets, and the prices of parallel import vehicles, primarily premium brands, are usually 15 percent lower than dealers authorized by auto makers. There were 22,300 new energy vehicles (NEV) imports in 2017, up 38.2 percent.

Liu He, deputy head of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January that China would lower tariffs on imported cars as part of its broader efforts to further open up the Chinese market to foreign goods and services, according to the Global Times.

Currently, the tariff on imported vehicle is 25 percent. Cui Shudong, secretary-general of the China Passenger Car Association, acknowledged that the tariff cut would make high-end models more competitive.

“It would cause a limited negative effect on automobile joint ventures in the short term,” Cui said.

Liang Ming, research fellow at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation at the Ministry of Commerce, said China would extend imports to balance its foreign trade.

China is shifting toward a consumption-driven economy. “More automobile imports will also help resolve the contradiction between unbalanced and inadequate development and the people’s ever-growing needs for better lives,” Liang said.


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Shipping activity at Port Qasim

F.P. Report

KARACHI: Two ships CMA CGM Latour and E-Tracer carrying Containers and 50,569 tonnes Coal were arranged berthing at Qasim International Container Terminal and Port Qasim Electric Power Terminal respectively during last 24 hours, said a report issued by Port Qasim Authority on Thursday.

Meanwhile two more ships ‘Gibraltar’ and ‘Wilpride’ with Phosphoric Acid and LNG also arrived at outer anchorage of Port Qasim during last 24 hours.

Berth occupancy was observed at the Port at 47% on Wednesday where a total of eight ships namely, CMA CGM Latour, MSC Algeciras, Santy, Grect-61, E-Tracer, Nvios Coral, Umm Addalkh and Al-Soor-II are currently occupying berths to load/offload Containers, Rice, Coal, Soya Bean, Palm Kernel and Diesel oil.

Cargo handing during last 24 hours stood at 142,819 tonnes comprising 91,302 tonnes import cargo and 51,517 tonnes export cargo inclusive of containerized cargo carried in 3,988 Containers (TEUs), (1,493 TEUs imports and 2,495 TEUs exports) was handed at the Port.

Three ships, Container Vessel MSC Algeciras Bulk cargo carrier Great-61 and Oil tanker Al-Soor-II are expected to sail on Thursday in the afternoon.

Three ships, Gibraltar, Black Pearl and Wilpride carrying Phosphoric Acid, LPG and LNG are expected to take berths at QICT, SSGC and PGPCL respectively on Thursday.

While four more ships Uni Florida, Songa Calabria, Johanna Oldendroff and Brozo carrying Containers, Coal and Furnace oil are due to arrive at PQ on Friday.