Egyptian pound steady at official auction and black market

Reuters , Tuesday 5 Jan 2016

Egypt's central bank kept the pound at 7.7301 pounds to the dollar at its official foreign currency auction on Tuesday. The pound was steady on the black market as well.

Egypt, which depends on imported food and energy, is facing a dollar shortage and mounting pressure to devalue the pound. The central bank surprised markets when it strengthened the pound on Nov. 11 by 20 piasters against the dollar.

On Tuesday, it sold 39.4 million dollars at a cut-off price of 7.7301 pounds to the dollar, unchanged from Sunday. The black market rate was around 8.58 pounds to the dollar on Tuesday, almost unchanged from Sunday's rate of 8.57.

The country has been starved of foreign currency since a popular uprising in 2011 ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak and drove tourists and foreign investors away.

Egypt's reserves have tumbled from $36 billion in 2011 to$16.4 billion, and the country has been rationing dollars through weekly dollar auctions to banks, keeping the pound artificially strong.

In February, the central bank imposed capital controls, limiting dollar-denominated deposits to $50,000 a month in an attempt to fight the black market. The move caused problems for importers, who lost access to foreign currency.

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