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Egyptian Net Foreign Reserves Fall to $13.5 Billion in February

Egypt’s foreign net reserves fell to $13.5 billion in February, a smaller decline than economists had expected.

Reserves fell from $13.6 billion in January, the lowest level in at least 15 years, the central bank in Cairo said today. The median estimate of five economists surveyed by Bloomberg was $13.2 billion.

There were no aid inflows during the month, and reserves stayed little changed because of precautionary measures the central bank took in early February, said Nidal Assr, the bank’s sub-governor, in an e-mailed response to questions.

Egypt’s foreign reserves are down more than 60 percent since before the 2011 uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak. Persistent political tensions and violence have kept tourists and investors away and prolonged talks with the International Monetary Fund on a $4.8 billion loan.

The pound has dropped 8.2 percent since the central bank in December started a policy to ration reserves by selling limited amounts of dollars in auctions. Central Bank Governor Hisham Ramez last month restricted the amount that the currency is allowed to move on the interbank market, and the premium over the official rate that banks can charge to sell dollars to clients.

“It’s a relief to see reserves holding flat, but I suspect this marks the impact of tighter foreign-exchange controls rather than an improvement in market fundamentals,” Simon Williams, chief Middle East and North Africa economist at HSBC Holdings Plc in Dubai, said by e-mail. “The pound is still under pressure and is likely to remain so until the political outlook stabilizes and an IMF deal is done.”

Violence has flared again this week, and five people were killed in clashes yesterday between security forces and protesters in the Suez Canal city of Port Said.

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