Egyptian Banks' Trading in Dollars Soars Since Currency Float

(Bloomberg) -- Foreign-currency trading on Egypt’s interbank system has climbed to $14.5 billion since the November 2016 decision to float the currency, central bank Governor Tarek Amer told Bloomberg.

Bank trading in dollars -- almost non-existent before the float -- had reached $9 billion in September. The 60 percent rise since then reflects growing confidence in the economy after reforms aimed at ending a foreign-currency shortage that had crippled business activity.

The lifting of the currency controls halved the pound’s value against the dollar, but also paved the way to secure a $12 billion International Monetary Fund loan that boosted investor confidence in an economy that had struggled since the 2011 ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.

The continued growth in activity in the interbank market comes as foreign holdings of Egyptian Treasury bills have stabilized around $19.5 billion over the past two months. The standstill suggests that foreign investors may have maximized their allocations to Egypt’s high-yield debt.

With that interest stagnating, the government is looking at issuing new international bonds to help plug a financing gap estimated at between $10 billion to $12 billion in the next fiscal year. It’s also looking to boost private sector investment to supplant a steady inflow of public funding for projects that has fueled growth over the past year.

In a report issued Monday, Fitch unit BMI Research said Egypt’s deficit is projected to narrow to 7.8 percent of gross domestic product in the fiscal year 2018-19 due to spending cuts and reforms that could also help reduce the ratio of debt to GDP.

Even so, Egypt remains “highly vulnerable to changes in investor sentiment” which could be adversely affected by political instability, insufficient progress on reforms or faltering appetite for emerging market debt, it said.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.