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Egyptian Foreign Reserves Fall to $15.1 Billion in March

Egypt’s net international reserves dropped to $15.1 billion at the end of March, the 15th consecutive monthly fall.

The reserves fell by $599 million from about $15.7 billion in February, the central bank said on its website, the smallest decline since the start of the revolt that ousted Hosni Mubarak.

“I take some comfort from the moderation in the pace of reserve decline,” said Simon Williams, chief economist at HSBC Middle East, who had estimated a drop of $650 million. “But I think this reflects the depletion of the capital stock, not an improvement in the underlying external account position.”

Egypt’s international reserves have plunged by more than half since the uprising. The North African country is seeking a $3.2 billion International Monetary Fund loan to help an economy that is struggling to recover from a drop in investment and tourism.

Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Fayza Aboulnaga said today Egypt aims to sign a memorandum of understanding with the fund in June. She said the IMF wants broad backing from political groups in the country before approval is granted.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, which makes up the largest bloc in parliament, has said the government hasn’t proved it’s exhausted all alternatives before seeking external debt. It has also criticized the government’s loan-linked economic program as too vague.

“The central bank is managing very shrewdly its outflows and this number gives a breather as to whether the gap can still be bridged given the delay of an IMF deal until June,” said Jean-Michel Saliba, a London-based economist at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch.

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