Crude down in Asia on profit taking

SINGAPORE: Crude prices fell in Asia Friday as traders took profits after a week of gains sparked by tensions in the Middle East and US stimulus hopes, analysts said.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for August delivery, shed 53 cents to $92.13 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for delivery in September slid 38 cents to $107.42.

Crude prices were winding down after soaring for most of the week, said Justin Harper, market strategist for IG Markets Singapore.

"They've come down a little bit because of the inevitable profit taking," he told.

"They have seen some solid gains in the last few days... so there will be a little bit of profit taking at the end of this week," Harper added.

Crude had rallied for most of the week, first on assurances by the US Federal Reserve that they would intervene should the economy falter, and then on increasing tensions in Syria and Iran.

In overnight trade, crude had surged more than $2.50 as fighting raged in Damascus and China and Russia vetoed UN resolutions on the conflict.

Meanwhile, Israel accused Iran and Lebanese group Hezbollah of carrying out a suicide bomb attack that killed six Israeli tourists in Bulgaria.

Euro weakens further in Asian trade

The common currency was changing hands at $1.2377 in Tokyo morning trade, down from $1.2391 in New York late Thursday.

The unit was also well down from its level above $1.25 the previous day, which was largely driven by surprise eurozone crisis measures adopted following European Union talks in Brussels last week.

Against the safe-haven Japanese currency, the euro dipped further to 98.97 yen, from 99.00 yen in US trade.

The dollar, meanwhile, got a small boost at 79.97 yen, up from 79.88 yen in New York trade, after data Thursday showed US unemployment benefits tumbled last week, suggesting an easing in layoffs and beating analyst expectations.

"The euro has faced an isolated fall against the dollar and other currencies like the Aussie," said Osao Iizuka, head of FX trading at Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank.

Markets are now looking to a June US labour report Friday for signs about the state of the world's largest economy, and whether it would prompt the US Federal Reserve to step in with fresh easing measures.

"A stronger-than-expected outcome would prompt dollar buying, but its topside is likely to be heavy" amid worries over the global economy, Sumino Kamei, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ senior analyst, told Dow Jones Newswires.

The Bank of China led off the action with a surprise rate cut, its second in less than a month, underscoring both the sharpness of the country's slowdown and the authorities' resolve to counter it.

The European Central Bank's cut, to a record low 0.75 percent, was on the other hand widely anticipated.

At the same time, the Bank of England kept its rate even but announced #50 billion ($78 billion) in additional stimulus. (AFP)

KSE up on Pakistan-US thaw hopes; rupee firm

ISLAMABAD: Country's main stock market closed higher on Monday, buoyed by hopes that ties between Islamabad and Washington could improve in the coming week, analysts said.

The Karachi Stock Exchange benchmark 100-share index rose 0.65 percent, or 88.33 points, to close at 13,754.13 points on volume of 61.47 million shares, compared to 13,657.88 on Friday.

"The market started the week on a high because of positive news about Pakistan-U.S. relations in the last few days.

Investors are hopeful of good news during the week," said a research analyst.

The United States and Pakistan are at an impasse in difficult negotiations to repair ties, which would clear the way for the re-opening of overland supply routes through Pakistan to NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Islamabad blocked the routes last year to protest against the deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers in a cross-border NATO air attack in November. The lines have been vital for US-led forces in their involvement in landlocked Afghanistan, a conflict now in its 11th year.

Now, the routes are seen as important for the withdrawal of most foreign troops from Afghanistan before the end of 2014.

The market was boosted by the fertilizer sector with investors expecting better performance because of a rise in product prices by two major companies, dealers said.

"Fauji Fertilizer and Fauji Bin Qasim raised prices which boosted their prices," said a dealer.

The Fauji Fertilizer Company rose 1.41 percent to close at 110.75 rupees, and the Fauji Fertilizer Bin Qasim Company closed 1.96 percent higher at 41.6 rupees.

The rupee firmed to close at 93.97/94.04 against the dollar, compared to 94.13/18 on Friday.

Overnight rates in the money market closed flat at 11.90 percent.

Asian shares, euro slip on eurozone fears

HONG KONG: Asian markets reversed the previous day's gains and the euro sank back towards four-month lows Wednesday after Greece's former premier warned there was a chance his country will exit the eurozone.

Lucas Papademos' comments came ahead of a European summit aimed at addressing Athens' debt crisis and tempered optimism after France and Germany said they would do whatever it takes to keep Greece in the bloc.

Wall Street provided an anaemic lead despite strong US housing data indicating a turnaround in the crucial sector, while a downgrade of Japan debt rating late Tuesday also weighed.

Tokyo fell 1.21 percent by the break, Hong Kong shed 1.54 percent, Sydney lost 1.26 percent, Seoul was 1.61 percent lower and Shanghai eased 0.17 percent.

European leaders will later in the day meet in Brussels to discuss solutions to the Greek crisis as the country prepares to hold a second general election on June 17.

Analysts fear a likely victory for anti-austerity parties will see Athens renege on its bailout terms and eventually leave the euro, which could have a knock-on effect for other troubled economies such as Spain and Italy.

Papademos, who stepped down this month, said in an interview with Dow Jones Newswires published Tuesday: "The risk of Greece leaving the euro is real."

He added that preparations were being made in case Greece exits the 17-nation currency union.

There were also concerns over Wednesday's summit after Germany reasserted its stance against eurobonds -- which would see nations guarantee each other's borrowings -- despite calls from other members, including France, to look at the plan.

The single currency fell to $1.2653 in early Tokyo trade, down from $1.2684 late Tuesday in New York and well off the $1.2815 touched on Monday.

It was also down at 101.28 yen from 101.45 yen.

The dollar was almost flat at 80.04 from 79.98 yen. (AFP)

KSE extends gains on foreign buying

Foreign investors bought shares worth a net $19,569,904 on Friday according to the National Clearing Company of Pakistan.

The Karachi Stock Exchange (KSE) benchmark 100-share index closed 1.33 percent, or 192.36 points, higher at 14612.28 points, with a volume of 240.9 million shares. The market hit an intra-day high of 14,628.96, and posted its highest close since May 5, 2008 when the index closed at 14,673.13.

"The expectation of good corporate earnings and consistent buying by foreign investors combined to keep the market bullish," said a research analyst at the JS Global financial services company.

Among the heavyweights, Pakistan Telecommunication Company closed 6.93 percent higher at 15.42 rupees. (Reuters)

Asian markets slip as European debt in focus

Tokyo fell 0.35 percent by the break, Hong Kong shed 0.39 percent, Sydney slipped 0.12 percent, Seoul tumbled 1.27 percent and Shanghai was flat.

Spain's Treasury on Thursday raised a higher-than-expected 2.541 billion euros ($3.3 billion) in its issue of two- and 10-year bonds at rates below the key six percent that raises alarm bells for investors.

The results came after Madrid on Tuesday enjoyed an above-target auction of 12- and 18-month bonds.

With the eurozone debt crisis returning to the fore the focus is now on Spain -- with a gaping public deficit and unemployment above 20 percent -- with fears it could follow Greece, Portugal and Ireland into asking for a bailout.

The auction came as world finance leaders began a two-day meeting in Washington that will discuss bolstering an International Monetary Fund (IMF) firewall against future crises like that of Greece last year.

Earlier this week, Japan said it would pledge $60 billion after IMF chief Christine Lagarde called for a global effort to raise $500 billion.

Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Poland are among the nations that have since pledged billions of dollars. (AFP)

Oil prices slide on weak US employment data

SINGAPORE: Oil prices slid in Asian trade on Monday, underpinned by weaker-than-expected unemployment data from the United States, the world's largest economy, analysts said.

New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate crude for delivery in May, shed $1.21 to $102.10 per barrel. Brent North Sea crude for May settlement was down $1.08 at $122.35 in morning trade.

"The market is primarily driven by the US jobs report that showed slow hiring," said Victor Shum, senior principal at Purvin and Gertz international energy consultants in Singapore.

"The hiring numbers were poorer than expected... and we are seeing a selling in oil futures as well as equities," he added.

Despite unemployment in the United States dropping to the lowest rate in more than three years in March, the Labour Department reported Friday that the number of unemployed workers hovered close to 13 million and hiring slowed, a warning sign that its recovery may be in trouble.

The economy created a meagre 120,000 jobs in March, much lower than the 200,000 forecast by economists.

Retail trade employment fell by 34,000 in March, with most of the losses coming from large merchandise stores.

The health of the US economy is closely watched by the market because it is the world's biggest oil consumer. (AFP)

Rupee ends slightly firmer at 90.74/79 to dollar

The rupee has been supported recently by remittances from Pakistanis overseas, which rose 23.4 percent to $8.59 billion in the first eight months of the 2011/12 fiscal year, compared with $6.96 billion in the same period last year. In February, remittances totaled $1.16 billion.In the money market, overnight rates were flat at the top level of 11.90 percent, unchanged from Monday's close due to tight liquidity in the interbank market. (Reuters)

PSO seeks 650,000 ton fuel oil for April-June

SINGAPORE: Pakistan State Oil (PSO) is seeking up to 650,000 tonnes of high-sulphur fuel oil (HSFO) for the second quarter, shying away from low-sulphur parcels though, tender details on its website showed on Thursday.
Total volume sought for the HSFO grade is steady to the previous February-March period, with three 65,000-tonne lots required for April 15-30 delivery, four 65,000-tonne parcels to be delivered in June and another three 65,000-tonne cargoes to land between May to June.Bids are to be made on a cost-and-freight (C&F) basis to Karachi, with the tender closing on March 19 and remaining valid for a week till March 26. (Reuters)

Asian markets lifted by US data, European moves

HONG KONG: Asian markets' upward trend since the start of the year continued on Friday as optimism was boosted by a fresh set of upbeat US data and positive news from the eurozone.

Improving risk sentiment also supported the euro against the yen and dollar but rising oil prices tempered gains.

Tokyo added 0.45 percent by the break, Hong Kong gained 0.81 percent, Seoul was up 0.43 percent, Sydney rose 0.32 percent and Shanghai was 0.55 percent higher.

In Europe ministers agreed measures linked to a Greek debt restructuring and the beleaguered country is expected to be given the all clear for its second bailout next week.

The move came at a two-way summit where leaders are discussing measures to promote long-term growth and jobs in the region.

Investors around the world have also been encouraged by a committee's crucial ruling that Greece was not in default on its bonds in the 107 billion euro ($142 billion) writeoff deal.

A default ruling would have triggered the payment of credit default swaps, insurance on the debt, which could have tanked Athens' entire 237 billion euro second bailout. (AFP)

Banks lead KSE to 22-mth high

KARACHI: Share prices at Karachi Stock Exchange (KSE) ended higher on Tuesday, led by banking shares including the Bank of Punjab and the National Bank of Pakistan onhopes of healthy corporate earnings which are due in the coming days.

The Karachi Stock Exchange (KSE) benchmark 100-share indexrose 0.21 percent, or 26.55 points, to 12,544 points.

Turnover reached 322.47 million shares, compared with 232.85million shares traded on Monday.

"The volume at KSE today reached a 22-month high," said a stock dealer.

BOP closed 12.35 percent higher at 9.10 rupees, and NBP rose1.17 percent to end at 49.43 rupees. (Reuters)

Mumtaz Haider Rizvi given additional charge of Chairman FBR

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani has approved the promotion of Mumtaz Haider Rizvi a BS-21 officer of Customs and excise group presently posted as Member (Customs), Federal Board of Revenue to BS-22.Mumtaz Haider Rizvi is posted as member (Customs) by up-grading the post to BS-22.He is also assigned additional charge of the post of Chairman, Federal Board of Revenue with immediate effect. (PPI)

Oil up in Asia as traders await US jobs report

SINGAPORE: Crude prices were up in Asia on Friday amid nervous trade ahead of a closely-watched US jobs report to be released later in the day, analysts said.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in March, gained three cents to $96.39 a barrel.

Brent North Sea crude for March delivery was up 18 cents to $112.25.

"Oil investors have turned cautious ahead of Friday's US government report on non-farm payrolls and unemployment," Phillip Futures said in a report.

Analysts expect the report, seen as a barometer of the US economy, to show a fall in the net number of jobs added to the economy in January, to 155,000 from 200,000 in December.

No improvement in the unemployment rate of 8.5 percent is also forecasted, a worrying sign for the economy of the world's largest oil consumer. (AFP)

Oil higher in Asian trade on Nigerian unrest

SINGAPORE: Oil prices rose in Asian trade on Monday as worries over supply disruptions in Nigeria outweighed concerns over the mass debt downgrade of eurozone nations, analysts said.

New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate crude for delivery in February, gained three cents to $98.73 in morning trade.

Brent North Sea crude for February delivery was up 37 cents to $110.81 on its last trading day.

"Any shortage of supply caused by a disruption in Nigeria is likely to cause a direct spike on crude prices," said Ker Chung Yang, commodities analyst at Phillip Futures in Singapore.

Nigeria's labour unions Monday decided to call off street protests due to security concerns, but said a week-old nationwide strike over soaring fuel prices will remain in place.

The announcement came after talks between the government and labour leaders on Thursday and Saturday with President Goodluck Jonathan failed to find a compromise.

Gas crisis: Punjab traders to go on protest

LAHORE: All the chambers of commerce and industry and trade organisations of the Punjab have decided to launch a protest campaign against the gas crisis in the province, Geo News reported.The decision was made at a meeting at Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) with President Irfan Qaiser Sheikh in the chair. It was attended by all the chambers and trade organizations of the province.It was decided in the meeting that the protests would be held first at the provincial level, after that a Long March would be made towards Islamabad.And if the crisis was not resolved civil disobedience campaign would be launched.

Gas crisis: Punjab traders to go on protest

LAHORE: All the chambers of commerce and industry and trade organisations of the Punjab have decided to launch a protest campaign against the gas crisis in the province,
The decision was made at a meeting at Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) with President Irfan Qaiser Sheikh in the chair. It was attended by all the chambers and trade organizations of the province.

It was decided in the meeting that the protests would be held first at the provincial level, after that a Long March would be made towards Islamabad.

And if the crisis was not resolved civil disobedience campaign would be launched.

CNG stations shut for 24 hours

KARACHI: Faced with extraordinarily low gas pressure, the Sui Southern Gas Company on Tuesday announced yet another 24-hour shut down of gas supply to CNG stations in Sindh, which will include Karachi and Balochistan. The outage started from 9 am Wednesday and will continue till 9 am Thursday, December 22nd.

This is the fourth CNG shutdown of the current season in the city and other parts of the province: a problem that started ever since the SSGC started facing serious pressure problems in its gas supply system due to peak winter-related consumption of gas in the domestic sector. “The decision to discontinue gas to the CNG stations on a periodic basis follows an extraordinarily low pressure situation that has badly affected overall gas supply in Karachi and interior Sindh,” said an official statement of SSGC issued on Tuesday. The SSGC also cites the recent decision of Economic Coordination Committee of the federal cabinet for shutdown of gas to CNG pumps.

“SSGC realizes that the customers face an acute situation, and the company is taking all actions to ensure uninterrupted gas supply” said the statement.

The SSGC management also requested all stakeholders concerned to fully support the company in handling the low pressure situation more effectively. All the previous shutdown of CNG stations in the province saw long queues of vehicles at fuel pumps in the city in the hours before and after the scheduled shutdown. On all shutdowns the public faced serious problems in travelling due to the lack of public transport facilities as a majority of intra-city buses, minibuses, and coaches were recently converted to the cheaper option of CNG.

The last shutdown of gas at CNG stations in the province lasted for 24 hours till 9 am December 17.

Although the agreement between the SSGC, KESC and Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry — brokered by the Federal Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources, Dr Asim Hussain — had called for the weekly two-day closure of CNG stations to save gas for KESC, this decision was not fully implemented owing to resistance from CNG station owners, transporter associations and other concerned public quarters.

Since the November 26th agreement, the longest closure of CNG stations in the province was for 43 hours: on that occasion CNG stations remained shut from 11 pm on November 29th till 6 pm December 1st. Though the plan was to curtail gas supply to CNG pumps for 48 hours, the shutdown time was decreased by five hours on the insistence of CNG station owners’ associations and other concerned quarters.

Euro firms in Asia ahead of EU summit

TOKYO: The euro firmed against other major currencies in Asia on Wednesday ahead of a crucial European Union summit that will focus on hammering out a plan to contain the eurozone debt crisis.

The unit fetched $1.3403 and 104.24 yen in early trade, compared with $1.3397 and 104.14 yen in New York late Tuesday.

The dollar bought 77.80 yen, compared with 77.70 yen.

The euro will likely be volatile as investors watch for the latest news on Europe's fiscal problems in the lead up to the two-day summit starting Thursday, dealers said.

"Since the region is clearly in a crisis mode, it might be easy for leaders to persuade the public to accept some breakthrough measures," said one senior dealer at a major Tokyo bank.

The summit is seen as crucial to tackling the debt contagion threatening the eurozone and the future of the bloc's single currency.

Leaders were expected to focus on ways to boost the region's budgetary discipline.

A call by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to set uniform tough budget standards across the eurozone raised hopes that the bloc would finally take decisive moves to end its fiscal crisis.

The pair backed automatic sanctions against member states whose budget deficits rise above three percent of gross domestic product. (AFP)

Asian shares mostly up on Europe hopes

HONG KONG: Asian markets mostly climbed for a second day Tuesday on optimism that Europe's finance leaders are close to a plan to tackle debt despite a warning that the crisis could spark another depression.

Traders also took a lead from a strong cue on Wall Street, which surged after a record post-Thanksgiving shopping weekend.

Tokyo rose 0.81 percent by the break, Hong Kong was 0.21 percent higher, Seoul gained 1.29 percent, Shanghai climbed 0.34 percent but Sydney dipped 0.31 percent.

The gains came even as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said if the eurozone crisis led to the exit of even one country it "would most likely result in a deep depression in both the exiting and remaining euro area countries as well as in the world economy".

Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski said the eurozone's collapse would result in an "apocalyptic" crisis.

Moody's Investors Service warned that all European Union sovereign debt ratings, not just those of teetering nations such as Italy, Greece and Portugal, were at risk.

And rival agency Fitch downgraded Washington's outlook to negative as it projected slow growth, political stalemate and rising levels of debt this decade.

However, eyes were on a meeting later Tuesday in Brussels, with reports suggesting key leaders were considering a push for strict new budget rules for member states to fix the crisis, rather than recommending changes to EU treaties, which could take years.

The meeting comes after US President Barack Obama told top European officials Monday they must act decisively to avoid plunging the world into another downturn. (AFP)

KSE ends lower in lack luster trade

KARACHI: Karachi Stock Exchange (KSE) on the rollover day ended lower in a lacklustre market as investors stayed on the sidelines, concerned about the rupee.

"There is lack of interest in the market, and the main concern today was about the rupee," said a broker.

The Karachi Stock Exchange's (KSE) benchmark on Friday 100-share index ended 0.69 percent, or 81.26 points, lower at 11,648.14 on turnover of just 28.18 million shares. (Reuters)

KSE ends lower in lack luster trade

KARACHI: Karachi Stock Exchange (KSE) on the rollover day ended lower in a lacklustre market as investors stayed on the sidelines, concerned about the rupee.

"There is lack of interest in the market, and the main concern today was about the rupee," said a broker.

The Karachi Stock Exchange's (KSE) benchmark on Friday 100-share index ended 0.69 percent, or 81.26 points, lower at 11,648.14 on turnover of just 28.18 million shares. (Reuters)

Multan region CNG supply suspended for three days

MULTAN: CNG supply has been suspended from Monday for three days in Multan region under the gas load management plan, Geo News reported.

CNG supply has been stopped from Monday morning at 6.00 A.M, which remaining suspended on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday would be restored on Thursday morning at 6.00 A.M for the customers in the cities/towns of Multan region including Multan, Khanewal, Laiya, Vehari, Dera Ghazi Khan, Rajanpur, Muzaffargarh and Chichawatni

CNG Association slamming the three-day suspension of gas supply to the customers said that they do not accept this unilateral decision of the authority and would soon formally announce launching a movement against it, which would not stop until the addressing of their demand.

LTC to launch 56 new CNG buses today

LAHORE: As part of expanding urban transport system in Lahore, 56 new CNG buses will become operational in the city from today,

According to Lahore Transport Company (LTC) Chairman Khawaja Ahmed Hassan, LTC is implementing a plan to provide affordable and efficient urban transport system in Lahore, therefore, 56 new buses will be running from today while an order of 200 additional buses has also been given to China.

Chief Minister Punjab Mian Shahbaz Sharif chaired a meeting held to discuss transport-related facilities in Lahore. He said that provision of quality transport system in main cities is among the government's priorities and a plan has been been devised to achieve the targets.

Oil down in Asia on profit taking

SINGAPORE: Oil prices headed down in Asian trade Friday as traders took profits from a heady overnight rally sparked by a slew of positive economic data from the US, Europe and China, analysts said.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in December, retreated 23 cents to $97.55 per barrel.

Brent North Sea crude for December delivery shed 61 cents to $113.10.

Crude traders were making a quick buck after prices shot up in late US trade Thursday, said Victor Shum, senior principal of Purvin and Gertz energy consultants in Singapore.

"It's simply profit-taking after the big comeback yesterday in the US," he told.

"It was a confluence of a lot of positive economic news in the US and Europe, and some data from China on growth in its oil imports last month," Shum added.

The US had a rare reprieve from its economic woes on Thursday as government data showed the trade gap of the world's largest oil consumer narrowed in September and unemployment claims fell to a seven-month low last week.

European debt worries were also slightly eased as Greece named a new prime minister and Italy's borrowing rate fell from unsustainable levels reached on Wednesday.

Figures issued Thursday showing stronger than expected oil imports by China, the world's biggest energy consumer, also boosted oil markets overnight. (AFP)

Public-private venture to manage losing trains

LAHORE: Business train has been handed over to the private sector, which will start running from December, following Pakistan Railways decision in principle to let public-private venture to manage running goods trains as well as losing passenger trains.

Railways GM, Saeed Akhtar that the private sector would be doing commercial management, while the operation responsibility of trains would rest with the Railways.

He said that the Business Train would be air condition, non-stop passenger train running up and down Lahore-Karachi.

Sources said that an agreement has already been finalized with an entrepreneurs’ group named ‘Friends’ for running Business Train and its revamping was underway.

Railways GM said that the matters relating to the handing over of Millat Express, Fareed Express and Allama Iqbal Express was being mulled over.

Crude mixed in Asia ahead of European summit

SINGAPORE: Crude prices were mixed in Asian trade Tuesday as traders awaited a midweek European summit on resolving the region's debt crisis while upbeat Chinese economic data held markets up, analysts said.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for December delivery, gained 27 cents to $91.54 per barrel.

Brent North Sea crude for delivery in December, fell 44 cents to $111.01.

Traders were on the sidelines ahead of Wednesday's emergency European Union (EU) debt rescue summit, said Nick Trevethan, senior commodities strategist for ANZ Research in Singapore.

"There is a degree of fence-sitting ahead of the EU summit tomorrow. If they make progress, it will be highly positive for the market, though they have the tendency to disappoint somewhat," he told.

Market sentiment heading into the summit had been positive following a weekend meeting of EU leaders who seemed to put aside differences and make progress in finding a salve to the region's debt woes.

However, persistent worries that Italy could need a bailout on the lines of debt straddled Greece as well as negotiations centred on a big debt write-off for Athens cast a shadow.

For the moment, crude markets were being supported by stellar manufacturing data from China, Trevethan stated.

"We have some decent data out of China, which helped lift sentiment not just in oil but in other commodities," he said.

Manufacturing activity in China hit a five-month high in October, HSBC said Monday, easing fears of a hard landing in the world's second-largest economy and greatest energy consumer. (AFP)

Kesc gas payables mount to over Rs32 billion

KARACHI: Karachi Electric Supply Company (Kesc) payables on account of gas bills have piled up to over Rs32 billion.

Sui Southern Gas Company officials said that Kesc as promised two weeks ago has not yet paid the sum of rupees one billion on account of the huge arrear amounts.

He said that despite Zamzama Gas Field breakdown, Kesc is being supplied 180 MMCFD gas.

The official told that the volume of piled up Kesc payables has now reached to a record level and it has become very difficult to further maintain continued supply of gas and face the shareholders’ grilling.

Pakistan's forex reserves fall to $17.17 bln

KARACHI: Pakistan's foreign exchange reserves fell to $17.17 billion in the week ending Oct. 8 from $17.35 billion the previous week, the central bank said on Thursday.

Reserves held by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) declined to $13.46 billion from $13.64 billion, while those held by commercial banks were flat at $3.71 billion, according to the State Bank of Pakistan.

"The fall in reserves is due to scheduled debt repayments," said Syed Wasimuddin, chief spokesman for the central bank.

Foreign exchange reserves hit a record $18.31 billion in the week ending July 30 but have eased due to debt repayments.

The reserves were boosted in June by inflows of $411 million, including a $191.9 million loan from the World Bank, and a loan of $196.8 million from the Asian Development Bank.

Higher export proceeds and a record inflow of remittances have helped Pakistan's forex reserves grow steadily.

According to official data, remittances rose 25 percent to $3.3 billion in the first three months of 2010/11 fiscal year (July-June), compared with $2.65 billion in the same period last year.

However remittances fell to $890 million in September, compared with $922 million received in September last year. (Reuters)

Oil extends losses in Asian trade

SINGAPORE: World oil prices extended their decline in Asian trade Thursday on data showing weak demand in the United States and persistent concerns over eurozone debt crisis.

Official data showed energy stockpiles in the United States increased more than expected last week, indicating softer demand in the world's biggest oil consuming nation.

New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for delivery in November, was down 83 cents to $80.38 in morning Asian trade.

Brent North Sea crude for November delivery shed 91 cents to $102.90.

"Weak global outlook and underperforming equity markets weighed (on the market)," financial group CIMB said in a commentary.

"US crude oil and gasoline inventories rose last week, implying growing weakness in fundamental demand," it added.

The US Department of Energy said Wednesday that crude oil stockpiles rose by 1.9 million barrels last week, more than the market had expected.

"The crude oil build-up was fairly large, and gasoline as well," said John Kilduff of Again Capital.

"But more importantly, the four-week average demand numbers were down significantly and I think it speaks of the state of the economy right now and the diminished prospects for it," he added.

Prices had surged by more than $4 a barrel in New York on Tuesday, mirroring huge gains in the global equity markets, sparked by hopes European governments would contain the eurozone debt crisis.

Global creditors announced Wednesday the return of auditors to Greece in a bid to break an impasse over billions of euros in blocked bailout loans Athens needs to avoid default on its massive debts.

But efforts to resolve the wider debt crisis, which the US fears will trigger another worldwide downturn, are embroiled in national feuding with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, suggesting a second Greek bailout may need to be renegotiated. (AFP)

KSE 100-Index sheds 450 points

KARACHI: The Karachi Stock Exchange's (KSE) benchmark 100-Index fell 450 points Monday,
According to sources, shares at the local capital market witnessed decrease as investors remained worried over concerns of escalating tension between Pakistan and the United States.

At one stage, the market witnessed the level of 11,158 points, however, economists and experts are of the view that because of the volatility in the relationship between Pakistan and US investors are reluctant in trading.

On the other hand, the sluggish trend of US economy in the international market has also resulted in the downfall of up to 2% in the Asian markets.

SECP acts to up investor awreness

ISLAMABAD: The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) on Friday organized "Investors'Feedback Programme" to seek feedback of entities on measures required to build investor confidence and increase investor participation in the capital market activities.

The programme was organized in collaboration with the Karachi Stock Exchange (KSE) and National Clearing Company of Pakistan (NCCPL) in Karachi, said a statement received here.

Representatives of all major capital market intermediaries including brokers, mutual funds, insurance companies, banks/DFIs and corporate pension funds and major brokerage houses attended the programme.

The organizers also highlighted key institutional reforms introduced in the capital market that have significantly reduced market risk, added transparency, and enhanced transactional efficiency.

The programme proved instrumental in brainstorming ideas and steps must be taken in various segments of the capital market both primary and secondary.

The participants deliberated upon suggestions floated in relation to improving activity in various stock market products bringing-in liquidity, expanding the outreach of the market to the masses for increasing the retail investor base and various fiscal reforms needed for creating level playing field.

Measures were also discussed for improved governance at capital market intermediaries and institutions, including internal workings at these entities, greater operational efficiency, enhanced risk management, combating market abuse, investor protection and awareness and encouraging new listings though reforms in the initial public offering and book building processes etc.

The participants appreciated the initiative of investor forum and termed it as a right step in the right direction.

The feedback from the meeting will be discussed with the capital market infrastructure institutions to transform the suggestions into practical steps and carry out requisite regulatory reforms for facilitating the capital market participants.

While reiterating its commitment to the development of the Pakistani capital market, the SECP assured the participants of closer coordination with the stakeholder on all major capital market policies and reforms. (APP)

Oil tumbles as dollar strengthens on Fed move

SINGAPORE: Oil tumbled in Asian trade Thursday on a stronger dollar as investors flocked to the safe-haven currency after the US central bank warned of significant downside risks to the American economy.

A strong greenback makes dollar-priced crude more expensive to holders of other currencies, softening demand and leading to lower prices.

New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate for November delivery, was down $1.21 at $84.71 a barrel in morning Asian trade, and Brent North Sea crude for November dropped $1.26 to 109.10.

The US Federal Reserve, after a two-day meeting Wednesday, unveiled a $400 billion dollar stimulus plan reduce long-term interest rates but investors chose to focus on its warning about the outlook for the world's biggest economy and oil consumer.

In announcing the new measures, the Fed painted a grim picture of the economy, strapped with slow growth, high unemployment and a depressed housing market.

"There are significant downside risks to the economic outlook, including strains in global financial markets," the central bank's Federal Open Market Committee warned in a statement.

The Fed stimulus plan did little to buoy the markets, as US stocks dived and the dollar surged - an indication investors were once again flocking to the currency considered a safe bet in times of crisis.

Chen Xin Yi, a commodities analyst at Barclays Capital in Singapore, said the Fed's statement about significant downside risks "contributed to some risk aversion" in the market.

"The big question is whether this latest action will accomplish anything? Frankly, we doubt it," said Paul Ashworth, the chief US economist at research house Capital Economics.

Investors were also digesting a series of downgrades by Moody's on three top US banks -- Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Citigroup - saying it saw the US government less willing than before to rescue them if they become unstable. (AFP)

SSGC cuts off gas supply: KESC

KARACHI: Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) has disconnected its gas supply to Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) resulting units of 220MW power plant in Korangi had tripped,

Spokesman for the KESC claimed that SSGC forcibly disconnected the valves of pipelines supplying gas to it resulting units of 220MW power plant in Korangi had tripped.

Meanwhile, SSGC spokesman has termed the claims of KESC as baseless. The spokesman said that KESC owed SSGC Rs28 billion dues while it is demanding supply of 266 mmcfd. He said that SSGC is supply 180 mmcfd.

Oil extends losses in Asian trade

SINGAPORE: Oil extended losses in Asian trade Thursday on data showing weak energy demand in the United States, the world's biggest oil-consuming nation, and persistent fears over the Greek debt crisis.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in October, was down 43 cents to $88.48 in morning trade and Brent North Sea crude for October settlement eased 53 cents to $111.87.

The US Department of Energy said Wednesday US crude oil inventories slipped by 6.7 million barrels last week, but analysts said the plunge was mainly a result of production shut in when tropical storm Lee passed through the Gulf of Mexico.

Investors focused more on gasoline stockpiles, which rose by 1.9 million barrels, indicating weak demand.

Global markets had been in turmoil on rising expectations of a Greek default or even an inglorious exit from the eurozone, stemming from its ongoing troubles to apply a recovery plan by the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

"Markets still need to be convinced that it (Europe) has a credible mechanism to manage the crisis," DBS Bank said in a market commentary. (AFP)

Karachi unrest may hit revenue collection: FBR

ISLAMABAD: Federal Bureau of Revenue (FBR) has expressed fear that the disturbed law and order situation in Karachi may adversely affect the process of revenue collection,

The FBR sources told  that revenue collection might suffer due to the unrest witnessed by the country's economic hub during the last month. However, they added, that the final figures in this regard were yet to be compiled.

The sources also expressed fear that the overall collection could be adversely affected in case the law and order situation in Karachi continued to remain disturbed for a longer period.

August tax recovery up by 6 percent: FBR

KARACHI: Pakistan’s tax recovery during the month of August recording a rise by 6 percent amounted to about Rs89 billion, Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) said.

Last year in August, FBR had recovered Rs83.75 billion, which compared to the current year August recovery of Rs89 billion shows an increase by 6 percent.

FBR sources told that the current year August tax recovery amount constituted of the first 29 days of the month’s available data.

Sources further said that the recovery from local taxes viz. direct tax, sales tax and federal excise duty amounted to over Rs76 billion as against Rs73.66 billion of the corresponding month previous year showing a rise of 3.6 percent.

Traders’ daily losses soar to Rs2 bn

KARACHI: The city is facing a complete shutdown as traders, transporters and fuel station owners decided to keep their regular operations closed after the MQM announced ‘day of mourning’ Tuesday,

The traders blamed the police and security administration for failing to protect their businesses in such a situation.

Chairman Traders Action Committee, Siddique Memon told Geo News that currently the traders are facing losses up to Rs2 billion while the sales have dropped to 70 % owing to the city situation.

According to sources of industrial sector, colossal loss of Rs10 billion is expected in the production sector due to deteriorating situation of the city.

Economic experts said that the labourers working on daily wages are the worst affected due to business paralysis in such situation while unemployment is also rising on a larger scale.

Therefore, traders’ bodies have demanded the government to deploy army as the police and Rangers have failed to protect them.

Gold steady on persistent euro zone fear

SINGAPORE: Gold held steady near a record high on Wednesday after a Franco-German summit failed to convince investors that the euro zone debt crisis would be solved effectively, supporting safe-haven demand for bullion.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel unveiled far-reaching plans for closer euro zone integration, but stopped short of increasing the bloc's rescue fund and said joint euro bonds may be a long-term solution.

Adding to investors' anxiety, the euro zone economy slowed sharply in the second quarter, hobbled by sluggish growth in Germany and stagnation in France.

"People are uncomfortable with what's happening in Europe and the United States," said Dick Poon, manager of precious metals at Heraeus in Hong Kong.

He added that strong investment demand has helped gold bar premiums in Hong Kong remain steady at 50 cents to $1 an ounce above spot prices, in line with reports from dealers in other parts of Asia on muted scrap selling and resilient investment interest despite high prices.

Spot gold was little changed at $1,787.80 an ounce by 0658 GMT. It was just 1.4 percent below the record high above $1,813 struck last week.

U.S. gold inched up 0.3 percent to $1,790.70.

The short-term gold technical outlook suggested that gold could pull back to $1,772 an ounce, said Reuters market analyst Wang Tao.

U.S. industrial output recorded its best gain in seven months in July, and home building last month recorded a smaller-than-expected decline, easing fears of a contracting economy.

But the world's largest economy is not out of the woods yet, and the Federal Reserve has pledged to keep interest rates near zero at least through 2012, which would benefit gold.

"The gold market's strength may be due to a continued focus on events in the economy and the likelihood that low interest rates remain a dominant theme," said MF Global in a research note.

Holdings of the SPDR Gold Trust , the world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, edged up 0.2 percent from a day earlier to 1,262.899 tonnes by Aug. 16.

This came after regulatory disclosure showed that large hedge funds in the United States had held onto their gold bets in the second quarter.

Spot platinum gained 0.2 percent to $1,815.75 an ounce, on its way to a seventh session of gains as a dip in its relative value versus gold triggered buying interest. (Reuters)

 'More dangerous' times ahead: WB chief

SYDNEY: World Bank chief Robert Zoellick on Saturday warned of a "new and more dangerous" time in the global economy, with little breathing space in most developed countries as a debt crisis hits Europe.

Zoellick said the eurozone's sovereign debt issues were more troubling than the "medium and long-term" problems which saw the United States downgraded by Standard and Poor's last week, sending global markets into panic.

"We are in the early moments of a new and different storm, it's not the same as 2008," said Zoellick, referring to the global financial crisis.

"In the past couple of weeks the world has moved from a troubled multi-speed recovery -- with emerging markets and a few economies like Australia having good growth and developed markets struggling -- to a new and more dangerous phase," he said in an interview with the Weekend Australian newspaper.

People were in less debt than during the credit crunch and current events did not have the same "sudden shock" factor, but Zoellick said there was less room to manoeuvre this time around.

"Most developed countries have used up their fiscal space and monetary policy is about as loose as it can be," he said.

Zoellick said the eurozone's structure "could turn out to be the most important" challenge currently facing the world economy, with some hope for Spain and Italy but debt-crippled Greece and Portugal unable to devalue.

European Union action taken to date falls short of what is needed, the World Bank chief said.

"The lesson of 2008 is that the later you act, the more you have to do," said Zoellick, questioning whether the troubled European nations could "ever get ahead of the problems that have plagued them."

He also urged British Prime Minister David Cameron not to be deterred from austerity measures by recent riots -- the country's worst in decades -- saying his spending cuts were "really necessary."

"My concern would be if the politics knocked them off course," Zoellick said.

Markets swung wildly this week on rumours of a French credit downgrade over the debt crisis, which started in Greece and is now fuelled by fears Spain or Italy might default, sparking a break up of the 17-nation currency.

Investors are questioning whether France and Germany, the eurozone's two largest economies, can continue to underwrite other states' debts without losing their top credit ratings and falling victim to the crisis themselves.

Zoellick said power, influence and weight was shifting "very fast by historical standards" to developing economies led by China, but he described the Asian superpower was a "reluctant stakeholder" in the global system.

Aside from tackling overheating Zoellick said Beijing faced a number of big domestic policy questions -- keeping its industrialisation "green", financial system reform, and the balance of state-owned firms with private enterprise.

Allowing the yuan to increase in value would help curb inflation but also make foreign goods cheaper in China, a potentially sensitive issue.

Beijing also wanted to increase social protections for its population but didn't want a European welfare state model, Zoellick said.

"They say to me ... it's too expensive." (AFP)

US loses AAA credit rating for first time

WASHINGTON: Standard & Poor's cut the US credit rating for the first time in history Friday, saying the country's politicians are increasingly unable to come to grips with its massive fiscal deficit and debt load.

S&P cut the US rating from its top-flight triple-A one notch to AA+, and added a negative outlook to it, saying there was a chance it could be downgraded again within two years if progress is not made cutting the huge government budget gap.

It was the first time the US was downgraded since it received an AAA rating from Moody's in 1917; it has held the S&P rating since 1941.

The rating came after a strong push back from the White House, which called S&P's analysis of the economy deeply flawed.

A Treasury spokesperson alleged that there was a "two trillion dollar error" in the S&P analysis, without offering any immediate explanation.

The blow came after the White House, Democratic and Republican lawmakers finally agreed on Tuesday to a deal to raise the nation's debt ceiling after months of wrangling which sent jitters rippling through the global economy still trying to recover from the 2008 recession.

A debt downgrade will be a symbolic embarrassment for President Barack Obama, his administration and the United States, and could raise the cost of US government borrowing.

There were also worries that the downgrade would wreak unpredictable havoc in global financial markets where the US dollar has long been the most important currency.

It also comes after the eurozone debt crisis took a dangerous new downward turn this week with worries of default spreading to Italy and Spain. But some analysts have questioned whether a ratings cut would impact demand for US debt and dismissed raters as having low credibility.

Indeed, despite the threat of a downgrade hanging overhead, the Treasury has easily been able to auction off tens of billions of dollars in new debt this week, and Treasury yields were at the year's low.

S&P linked the downgrade directly to the stalemate in US politics. "The downgrade reflects our opinion that the fiscal consolidation plan that Congress and the administration recently agreed to falls short of what, in our view, would be necessary to stabilize the government's medium-term debt dynamics," S&P said in a statement.

"More broadly, the downgrade reflects our view that the effectiveness, stability, and predictability of American policymaking and political institutions have weakened at a time of ongoing fiscal and economic challenges to a degree more than we envisioned when we assigned a negative outlook to the rating on April 18, 2011."

S&P said US "political brinksmanship" of recent months shows that governance in the country is becoming "less stable, less effective, and less predictable."

That was a clear reference to the last-minute move to raise the country's debt ceiling last Tuesday to avoid a debt default after months of wrangling. S&P said the negative outlook pointed to the possibility of lowering the rating to AA within two years if the government does not cut spending as much as currently pledged, or if higher interest rates and new fiscal pressures worsen the country's financial picture.

"Our opinion is that elected officials remain wary of tackling the structural issues required to effectively address the rising US public debt burden in a manner consistent with a 'AAA' rating."

S&P is considered the most influential of the three major rating agencies which also include Moody's and Fitch -- both of which said this week that they continue to review the country's deficit reduction plan to see if it lives up to AAA standards. (AFP)

KSE volume falls to 13-mth low

KARACHI: Karachi Stock Exchange (KSE) fell on Tuesday, with volume striking a 13-month low, as investors stayed on the sidelines amid concerns over security in the metropolis.

Shortened trading hours during the holy month of Ramadan also contributed to the drop in trade.

"Volumes at Karachi Stock Exchange touched a 13-month low as investors remained out of market with the inception of Ramadan," said Samar Iqbal, a dealer at Topline Securities.

The KSE benchmark 100-share index ended 0.22 percent, or 27.06 points, lower at 12,226.33 on turnover of 14.94 million shares.

Dealers said investors were also cautious following the killing of another 26 people over the past 24 hours in the southern port city.

The Karachi Stock Exchange (KSE) will open at 9:15 a.m. and close at 2:00 p.m. from Monday to Thursday, and at 1:00 p.m. on Fridays, throughout Ramadan.

Banks were closed on Tuesday.

SBP cuts policy rate by 50 basis points

KARACHI: The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) on Saturday slashed the discount rate by 50 basis points or 0.5 percent to 13.5 from 14,
Acting Governor SBP Yasin Anwar while announcing the monetary police for the next two months here said the energy crisis and bad law and order situation adversely affected the growth and feared that the fiscal deficit could climb to 6.2 percent for the previous financial year.

He said the government debt is not an issue exclusively relating to 2011 rather it is a basic problem while the tax to GDP ratio presently stood at 8.6 percent which, he regretted, was at a very low level.

The acting governor of the central bank said improved exports and remittances helped make foreign payments and the trade deficit remained within a limit of 0.8 percent.

He said the foreign exchange reserves held by the SBP had surged to Rs14.8 billion while the rupee value slipped by 0.5 percent during the past fiscal year.

Gold hits new record at Rs51800/tola

KARACHI: Gold price has reached new a height in local markets after the commodity hit a record in international markets,

In international market, the price of gold increased by 21 dollars to 1621. This affected the rate of gold in the local markets and in Karachi the commodity recorded a rise of Rs400 per tola to set a new record at Rs51800.

In Punjab the gold price advanced by Rs500 per tola to Rs51900.

PM accepts resignation of Governor SBP

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani has accepted resignation of Governor State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Shahid Hafiz Kardar.

According to a communiqué issued from the PM House the Prime Minister has accepted resignation of Governor State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Shahid Hafiz Kardar and appointed the senior most Deputy Governor Yasin Anwar as Acting Governor with immediate effect.

Shahid Kardar had in a letter dated July 15, addressed to the Prime Minister tendered his resignation.

Potohar suffering second CNG-less day

ATTOCK: The Potohar region from Attock to Jhelum including Islamabad went on suffering the two and a half days CNG stations’ forced shutdown under the government’s load management plan, which will again open up tomorrow afternoon, while the citizens of the region wreathed with anger for the piles of miseries that they have to undergo every week.

Potohar and Bhawalpur regions’ CNG stations were shutdown Thursday morning at 6.00 A.M. Earlier the people were seen thronging the CNG stations making long queues for getting their vehicles’ tanks filled and some stations had to supply CNG to all those standing in queues for hours even after the deadline for closure.

CNG supplies would now resume tomorrow afternoon at 3.00 P.M.

CNG suspended for 3 days in Punjab regions

LAHORE: Four regions of Punjab are facing gas closure from today (Monday) following the gas load management plan, CNG will remain suspended in Lahore, Gujranwala, Sahiwal and Multan regions from 6 am.

According to sources, Punjab is seriously hit by gas shortage as the production has reduced by 150 million cubic feet. Due to gas scarcity, CNG sector of the province will be facing loadshedding for three days instead of two and a half days.

Lahore, Gujranwala, Sahiwal and Multan will face gas closure from Monday through Wednesday while CNG will remain suspended in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Murree, Faisalabad, Dera Ghazi Khan and Bahawalpur from Thursday to Saturday.

Forex reserves climb to record level

KARACHI: The amount of foreign exchange reserves of the country has crossed 18 billion dollars which are sufficient for six months’ imports,

Spokesman State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), Syed Wasimuddin said the foreign exchange reserves during the week ended on July 2 increased by 77.6 million dollars to hit a record level at 18.247 billion dollars.

The increase is mainly attributed to the assistance of 41.1 million dollars received from Asian Development Bank (ADB) and World Bank (WB).

The foreign exchange held by SBP stands at 14.78 billion dollars while 3.46 billion dollars are with the commercial bank.

CNG closure in Punjab region irks citizens

LAHORE: The CNG stations would remain closed for three days in various cities of the Punjab province from today, following the load management schedule,The closure is creating panic among public.

According to Sui Southern Gas Company notice, CNG stations in Lahore, Gujranwala, Sahiwal and Multan regions have been closed from Monday morning at 6 am, while gas supply would be halted in Islamabad, Muree, Faisalabad and Bahawalpur on Thursday, Friday and Staurday.

The locals expressed their concerns over the suspension of gas as they were expecting relief from gas loadshedding from July 1 but the government disappointed them. The CNG sector consumes less gas as compared to power plants and industrial units and gas closure is equivalent to posing threat to the jobs for those working on daily wages.

According to the report, long queues of vehicles were witnessed in Lahore, Multan and Gujranwala as the CNG would not be available from today till Wednesday (from July 04 to July 06).

CNG Association strongly criticised the decision of 2-day and 3-day gas loadshedding for Sindh and Punjab respectively and convened the emergency meeting in Rawalpindi to decide the future course of action.

Sindh to collect sales tax on services from July 1

KARACHI: The Sindh Assembly unanimously passed the Sindh Sales Tax on Services Bill-2011 into law earlier this month, enabling the government to collect Sales Tax (ST) on services from July 1, which is likely to bring significant revenue to the government’s kitty.

According to sources, Sindh Revenue Board will collect taxes on taxable services including hotels, telecommunication, property buying and selling, courier and airport services.

No new ST on services would be imposed for the time being and Sindh would collect tax on services at the same 16 percent rate, sources added.

The Sindh Government has fixed the target of Rs25 billion for the next fiscal year to achieve.

The 18th amendment of the constitution gives the provinces authority to collect sales tax on services.

Petrol, diesel prices likely to be slashed

ISLAMABAD: The prices of petrol and diesel are likely to be slashed effective July 1 in the backdrop of falling world crude prices.

Sources privy to the oil and gas ministry said that petrol price likely to be reduced by Rs1.50 and diesel by Rs1.00 per litre, while kerosene, light diesel and high octane prices might go up by Rs1-1.50 per litre.

Sources said that the crude prices in the international market during the last four months fell down by 19 percent. New York crude price was seen trading at $91.63 per barrel, while four months ago it was hovering over $113 per barrel. Besides, the sales tax cut from 17 to 16 percent effective July 1 would also help pave the way for reduction in the prices of petrol; and diesel.

Federal minister for petroleum, Dr. Asim Hussain told Geo News that the oil depots of the oil refineries and oil marketing companies have been directed to remain open on Saturday and Sunday. He said that petrol was available 24 hours from the oil depots and petrol pumps could place orders whenever they like.

Decrease in subsidies not to impact poor: Hafeez Shaikh

ISLAMABAD: The debate on the budget for fiscal year 2011-12 has concluded in the National Assembly Friday,

Finance Minister, Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh while concluding the budget debate said that no new taxes have been introduced in the budget infact several other taxes have been abolished. He also said that regulatory duty on 392 goods has been eliminated while no excise duty has been imposed on 100 items.

He added that government expenditures have been decreased by Rs20 billion and federal employees have been given a 15% increase rather than 25%.

Dr Shaikh said that subsidies would be decreased in such a way that it would not impact the poor.

Several PPP members boycotted the Finance Minister’s speech and later came with Rana Farooq after the speech was over. They were protesting against the general sales tax (GST) imposed on agricultural products.

IPPs threaten to suspend 825MW power supply

KARACHI: Four independent power producers have threatened the government to suspend power supply of 825MW if their dues were not cleared today, The IPPs sent a letter on 13th May to the Pakistan Electric Power Company (Private) Limited (PEPCO) giving a 30-day deadline to clear Rs 16.5 billion dues.

RGST, Assets Tax coming in taxation proposals

ISLAMABAD: The government plans to impose the RGST, a new Minimum Assets Tax (MAT), tax on all domestic and foreign assets, cut duty on cars, tractors and motorcycles and raise tax exemption limit to Rs350,000 per year, The News has learnt.

These proposals and many others, finalised in the draft budget, will be approved by the federal cabinet on Friday and later presented by the finance minister in the National Assembly.

The News has been able to obtain the copy of the main taxation proposals to be tabled before the cabinet and these show a mix of new taxes and some reliefs. Only minor changes, if any, are expected in the cabinet meeting.

The main taxation proposals are as follows: RGST to be implemented in steps, first with 0, 5 and 16 per cent rates; Minimum Assets Tax on high net worth individuals, including those who are more than self-occupied house owners without exemption; tax on domestic as well as foreign assets; Agriculture Tax (adjustable) after consultation with the provinces and the Ministry of Law.

Defense goods; CNG buses; agricultural machinery, equipment and implements; CNG kit, cylinders, valves; computer software and commercial catalogues tax exemption to be withdrawn and tax imposed at 17%.

Duty on 1,800cc and above (hybrid) luxury cars, arms and ammunition, cigarettes and betel nuts imposed last year, to be withdrawn, including on another set of 390 items (facility to be availed by common importer); Cars and other vehicles (CBU) duty rates to be as follows: 1001cc to 1500cc from 60% slashed to 55%; 1501cc to 1800cc slashed from 75% to 70%; beyond 1800cc (no change); agricultural tractors 15% to 10%; motorcycles from 65% to 60%; CKD kits of cars ad jeeps from 32.5% to 30%; CDK kits of motorcycles from 15% to 10% (all facility to be availed by local producers);

Income-taxable limit of people increased from Rs 300,000 annual to Rs 350,000; Power-generating machinery import duty and sales Tax to be withdrawn; Tax increased to 17% from 16% on fertilizer, machinery, tractors, plant, machinery and pesticides; Exemption withdrawn and 17 percent tax imposed on buses, trucks, dumpers, trailers, prime movers and road tractors; Five percent tax imposed on the zero-rated items like textile; carpets; leather; sports goods and surgical goods; Health, food, education goods to remain exempted; There will be no extension in 15% surcharge on income tax and in special excise duty of 1.5 percent; Customs duty on 22 pharmaceutical raw materials to be slashed from 20% to 5%; Income Tax on non-residents to be 10% and no return-filing is required; Tax to be imposed on income of individuals from government securities at 10%; Dividend income of an asset management company from investment in government securities 40%; income of a banking company as interest on investment in government securities 40% as separate bloc of income.

The rate of tax on cash withdrawal has been reduced from 0.3 percent to 0.2 percent; Investment rebate in initial public offerings-IPO: increase in limit of investments in shares by individuals from 10% to 20%; Increase in tax for new corporate sector tax entity’s credit reduced from 15% to 5%; for investment in shares of IPOs insurance/ takaful and voluntary pension Rs300,000 to Rs500,000 (all these steps taken for promoting investment in banking sector); Regulatory Duty to be imposed on sugar in place of Sales Tax; Extension for facility of minimum tax on turnover to VPS.

Officials elaborated that the new MAT Tax on high net worth people will be extracted on assets out of untaxed income; there will be no exemption except on one self-occupied house. There will be no discretion on valuations and district collector’s assessed rate will be applicable. Tax credit for income tax paid/agriculture tax paid shall be admissible.

The theme of the budget, as per the available document, will be Tax On Property, reviving the economy, and promoting investment, power generation, prizes on sales tax receipts, effective monitoring and risk-based audit, improving tax-compliance, agriculture tax, sales tax on services, and capital formation.

Oil down in Asia

SINGAPORE: Oil was lower in Asian trade Monday amid fresh concerns over Europe's sovereign debt woes, analysts said.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for July delivery, lost eight cents to $100.51 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for July delivery was down 32 cents at $114.71.

"If the EU has trouble, it will have a drag on economic growth globally," Jason Feer, a Singapore-based analyst at Argus Media, said.

There are worries the stronger euro-zone economies could be affected eventually by its weaker members, thereby affecting crude demand.

Greece was the first of three members of the 17-nation eurozone to need a multi-billion-euro bailout. Ireland and Portugal have since followed suit and markets fear that Spain might eventually need help too.

EU, IMF and ECB officials experts are in Greece now reviewing progress on its May 2010 bailout programme, and must report soon on whether to grant the next tranche of funds.

Gas suspension continues for third day

FAISALABAD: Gas supply to the industries in the city remained suspended for the third day in a row, which has rendered thousands of daily wage earners jobless,

Sui Gas Department had announced a schedule for the suspension of gas supply to the industries for three days under gas load management plan. Accordingly, gas supply to the industries remained suspended for the third day today, prompting all productive activities in the mills and factories standstill and thereby throwing thousands of wage earners jobless.

The supply will resume on Saturday morning at 6 am.

All Pakistan Textile Processing Mills Association said that despite President and Prime Minister of Pakistan’s announcement of ending gas load shedding, the practice of weekly three gasless days continues unabated ruining the production of industries.

They have appealed to the government to ensure uninterrupted gas supply to the textile industry.

 Electricity, gas commercial tariff hike in offing

KARACHI: Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), while giving its inputs in the preparation of the incoming federal budget, has suggested an outright 30 percent increase in the General Sales Tax (GST) on commercial bills of electricity and gas, Geo News reported.

According to the FBR sources, the increase in tax will be applicable to the electricity and gas bills of non-tax registered manufacturers, retailers and restaurants that can yield up to six billion rupees.

However, it has been advised to retain 17 percent GST on registered manufacturers, retailers and restaurants in the new budget.

The sources also told that strict action will be taken against tax defaulters and non-tax registered sectors in the new fiscal year. 

CNG stations closed in Multan region

MULTAN: All the CNG stations would remain closed for two days, from Monday till Tuesday, in Multan region under gas load management schedule, Geo News reported.

The CNG pumps have been closed for 48 hours from this morning and would reopen at 6 am on Wednesday.

Areas affected by the CNG stations’ closure are Khanewal, Vihari, Dera Ghazi Khan, Muzzaffargarh, Layyah, Rajanpur and Chichawatni.

Owing to closure of CNG pumps, citizens are facing severe problems as transporters are overcharging the commuters.

Budget allocations for federal ministries likely at Rs274bn

KARACHI: The budget allocations for the federal ministries for the fiscal year 211-12 has been estimated at Rs274 billion, which included Rs109 billion of development expenditures, while Rs165 billion likely be allocated for the non-development expenditures.

According to the budget documents, Atomic Energy Commission budget for the coming fiscal year has been estimated at Rs25 billion, which includes Rs22 billion for development, while Rs3 billion for the non-development.

Interior ministry budget has been estimated at Rs55.80 billion—Rs5.80 for development, while the non-development expenditures estimated at 50.29 billion. Besides for the cabinet secretariat Rs.9.44 billion likely to be allocated---development Rs3 billion, while the non-development expenditures estimated at Rs6.44 billion. Finance ministry budget estimated at Rs8.95—development expenditures at Rs1.80 billion, while non-development expenditures likely to be at Rs7.15 billion.

KSE sheds 46 points to close at 11863

KARACHI: Trade activities remained dull at Karachi Stock Exchange (KSE) on Wednesday with KSE 100-share Index closing 46 points down to 11,863, Geo News reported.

Today’s trade began with negative numbers and the Index remained in the red zone throughout the session. The market remained under selling pressure triggered by the off-loading of energy sector scrips.

The market turnover was recorded at 36.7 million shares with Bank Alfalah topping the list of leaders in terms of volume, closing by 3 paisas down at Rs10.40.

On the other hand, KSE-30 Index slipped 28 points to peg at 11,548.

Market analysts are of the view that the market will continue to see-saw in the coming days.

KSE remained range-bound this week

KARACHI: Karachi Stock Exchange (KSE) in the week ended on Friday witnessed range-bound activity but managed to close 87 points up at 11,967.

The stock market started this week with positive numbers and at one stage touched the height of 12,100 points level. But the gains were eroded due to the uncertainties regarding the upcoming federal budget and in the wake of Pak-US relations becoming further strained.

The average trade volume stood at 52 million shares with Jehangir Siddiqui topping the list of volume leaders.

The younger KSE-30 Index gained 82 points this week to finish at 11,615. KARACHI: Karachi Stock Exchange (KSE) in the week ended on Friday witnessed range-bound activity but managed to close 87 points up at 11,967, Geo News reported.

The stock market started this week with positive numbers and at one stage touched the height of 12,100 points level. But the gains were eroded due to the uncertainties regarding the upcoming federal budget and in the wake of Pak-US relations becoming further strained.

The average trade volume stood at 52 million shares with Jehangir Siddiqui topping the list of volume leaders.

The younger KSE-30 Index gained 82 points this week to finish at 11,615.

Oil up as US floods threaten refineries

SINGAPORE: Crude extended gains in Asian trade Wednesday on fears that record floods might affect refineries along the Mississippi River in the United States, analysts said.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in June, rose 14 cents to $104.02 a barrel in morning trade.

Brent North Sea crude for June delivery gained 23 cents to $117.86.

"Oil settled higher in the US yesterday and is a little bit up (in Asia) following floods in Mississippi," said Shailaja Nair, a Singapore-based oil analyst from energy information provider Platts.

"There are refineries along the Mississippi River. Cutting their operating capacity will be a big factor in oil prices."

She added that the Mississippi, experiencing its worst flooding since 1925, is also a major transport line for Louisiana, which hosts at least two refineries and hundreds of oil and gas wells.

"This is a very serious flood," Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said.

Louisiana state's fuel team has identified two refineries, more than 1,750 oil and gas wells and 135 operators in the affected areas.

The United States is the world's biggest oil consuming nation.

"Flooding in the lower Mississippi valley, where 11 refineries process up to 2.5 million barrels a day, is causing problems for the US oil and oil product markets," analyst Nic Brown of Natixis said in a note.

"Some refineries may need to be closed temporarily, while the transportation of both crude and oil products may also be impacted."

Army engineers plan to open a major spillway by Saturday in order to divert water away from New Orleans and ease pressure on the Mississippi as it approaches the Gulf of Mexico. (AFP)

Oil rises in Asian trade

SINGAPORE: Crude was higher in Asian trade today, clawing back some of the ground it lost in sharp sell-offs last week.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in June, rose USD 1.18 to USD 98.36 a barrel.

Brent North Sea crude for June delivery gained 52 cents to USD 109.65.

"Oil prices are heading up this morning primarily reacting to the very sharp loss late last week, which was too much and too fast," said Victor Shum, a Singapore-based analyst from Purvin and Gertz international energy consultancy.

"We therefore see some buying (as traders) considering the pricing level to be an buying opportunity," he added.

Positive employment data from the world's biggest oil consumer also provided a boost to oil prices.

The US Labor Department's stronger-than-expected non-farm job creation data released last Friday hinted at a growing US economy, although the overall unemployment rate also rose to nine percent.

The data was welcomed by markets "so we have seen some recovery in oil prices , and the sharp drop (of) last week is likely to be temporary," Shum told AFP.

Meanwhile, Qatar's Energy Minister Mohammed Saleh al-Sada told reporters on Sunday that an upcoming OPEC meeting could not be expected to make any major change, insisting that oil production and supplies were at healthy levels.

"We think the fundamentals are fine and we can't see shortage of supply. OPEC countries and non-OPEC countries are producing and supplying and satisfying the world demands," he said.

"Clearly the supply level and the stocks level is healthy, and we are after the stability of oil prices." (AFP)

Food items go hiked at Sunday bazaars

LAHORE: The prices of food commodities including vegetables and fruits at Sunday Bachat Bazaars have risen to new high.

People looking for cheaper food items at bachat bazaars have complained of inflation in prices.

Vegetables and fruits prices have witnessed increase of Rs.3 and Rs.4 this week as compared to previous one.

People at bachat bazaars complained that continuous inflation in prices of food items have made their life miserable.

Faisalabad industry starved of gas for third day

FAISALABAD: Gas supply to the industries in the city remained suspended for the third day in a row, which has rendered thousands of daily wage earners jobless.
Sui Gas Department had announced a schedule for the suspension of gas supply to the industries for three days. Accordingly, gas supply to the industries remained suspended for the third day today, prompting all productive activities in the mills and factories standstill and thereby throwing thousands of wage earners jobless.

All Pakistan Textile Processing Mills Association said that despite President and Prime Minister of Pakistan’s announcement of ending gas load shedding from March 15, the practice of weekly three gasless days continues unabated ruining the industries in the city. They said that gas load shedding for Punjab industries alone was a conspiracy against the province of Punjab unjustifiably.

Bin Laden's death lifts dollar

SINGAPORE: The dollar strengthened against the euro in Asian trade Tuesday as markets revelled in the death of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, analysts said.

One euro bought $1.4818 in afternoon Asian trade compared to $1.4824 in New York on Monday.

Both currencies weakened against the yen, with the euro trading at 120.02 yen from 120.30 a day ago and the greenback changing hands at 81.00 yen from 81.10.

Japanese financial markets are closed from Tuesday to Thursday for a three-day public holiday. Trading resumes on Friday.

"News of the demise of terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden gave lift to the US dollar today," US-based forex research firm DailyFX said in a report.

US President Barack Obama announced in a dramatic televised address Monday that the mastermind of the World Trade Centre attacks had been killed in an operation near Islamabad.

The United States had been hunting bin Laden for years, an effort that was redoubled following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon, which killed 3,000 people.

However, DailyFX analysts warned that the fragile nature of the US economic climate would resume eating into the greenback's strength in the near term.

"The dollar's move lacked conviction and the greenback is likely to see further weakness on diverging interest rate expectations and concerns over the ballooning US deficit," the firm cautioned.

The dollar rose to Sg$1.2252 from Sg$1.2230 on Monday, to 29.91 Thai baht from 29.86 and to 42.82 Philippine pesos from 42.63.

However, the greenback fell to 8,542.00 Indonesian rupiah from 8,548.00 a day ago and to Tw$28.57 from Tw$28.67. (AFP)

Crude down in Asia on bearish US data

SINGAPORE: Crude prices fell in Asian trade on Friday as first-quarter GDP in the United States slumped and rising jobless claims in the world's largest oil consumer depressed markets, analysts said.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in June, fell 36 cents to $112.50 per barrel in the afternoon. London's Brent North Sea crude for June delivery dipped 32 cents to $124.70.

"I think worse-than-expected overnight economic news from the US is pressurising the market right now," said Serene Lim, oil and gas analyst at ANZ bank in Singapore.

US growth slowed to an annual pace of 1.8 percent in the January-March quarter, compared with a robust 3.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010, the Commerce Department said in its first estimate for the period.

"That, probably plus the higher-than-expected jobless claims in the US, is weighing on the market," Lim said.

The US Labor Department said claims for unemployment insurance benefits surged more than expected last week to the highest level since January: a seasonally adjusted 429,000, up from the prior week's 404,000.

In addition, figures showed 8.8 percent of workers remaining jobless in March, underscoring the frailty of the US economic recovery. (AFP)


NEPRA allows Rs.1 per unit hike in power tariff

ISLAMABAD: The National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA), on Thursday under fuel adjustment, granted an approval to power distribution companies to raise the tariff by Rs.1 per unit for the month of March.

The raise in power tariff would not be effective for Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC).

Chairman Khalid Saeed said NEPRA would write a letter to Ministry of Petroleum for enhancing gas supply to thermal power plants.

Pak-India trade talks begin

ISLAMABAD: India and Pakistan on Wednesday began their first trade talks since the 2008 Mumbai attacks, opening a two-day session designed to boost business between the two neighbours.

Secretary Commerce and Trade Zafar Mahmood and his Indian counterpart Rahul Khullar led the talks at a five-star hotel in Islamabad.

"I believe that this meeting will take the dialogue process forward and by the end of the meeting all issues relating to facilitation and promotion of bilateral trade could be addressed with consensus," Mahmood said.

Mahmood said the talks had an "open agenda" and the two sides would discuss "all the issues" of interest to both countries.

He said improving trade would economically benefit both countries and the region. Pakistan's economy languishes far behind that of India.

"Pakistan understands that there is a great potential to further increase the bilateral trade," Mahmood said.

Khullar called for a quick turnaround of trade after four previous rounds of commerce talks ground to a halt in the wake of the Mumbai attacks.

"This is a process that was interrupted and that must resume and go on. It must acquire significantly fast momentum if only to catch up for the time that we have lost," Khullar said.

"We are ready and willing to move forward and our only perspective here is one of constructive engagement to move the bilateral trade agenda and commercial agenda ahead and fast."

Trade between Pakistan and India is around $2 billion. (AFP)

Oil down in Asian trade on profit-taking

SINGAPORE: Oil prices slipped in Asian trade Tuesday as investors locked in profits after the long Easter weekend, but unrest in the Arab world would keep prices high, analysts said.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in June, lost 95 cents to $111.33 a barrel, while Brent North Sea crude for June dipped 46 cents to $123.20 in the afternoon.

"Traders and investors are now simply booking in profits after returning from a long weekend," said Victor Shum, a Singapore-based analyst with the
Purvin and Gertz energy consultancy.

But he added that the continuing unrest in the oil-producing Arab world would sustain high prices.

"The unrest in the Middle East and North Africa region continues to be a key factor supporting high oil prices, especially the protests in Yemen and Syria besides the ongoing unrest in Libya," Shum said.

Yemen's opposition said Monday it had agreed to a plan under which President Ali Abdullah Saleh would step down after 30 days, as two protesters were shot dead amid continued demonstrations demanding his ouster.

In Syria, government troops backed by tanks rolled into the flashpoint town of Daraa on Monday, killing at least 25 people, witnesses said.

And in Libya, rebels said they had pushed Moamer Kadhafi's troops out of the besieged city of Misrata, after his Tripoli compound was attacked in a NATO air strike. (AFP)


 Sindh CNG stations to shut down for 36 hrs

KARACHI: All Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) stations in Karachi and Sindh Interior would close down their operations for 36 hours from midnight of Friday (April 22) till noon on Sunday April 24.

According to Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) spokesman, this was mutually agreed in a meeting of the SSGC’s top management and the elected representatives of several CNG associations at SSGC Head Office on Thursday, presided by SSGC’s Deputy Managing Director Azim Iqbal Siddiqui.

The decision was taken in the larger interest of maintaining uninterrupted gas supply across the company’s franchise areas in Sindh and Balochistan.

There was a need for this decision keeping in view of Bhit Gas Field Annual Turn-Around (ATA), which has been in effect since April 12.

It was also agreed between the SSGC and the representatives of CNG associations that the company’s monitoring teams will be strictly checking all the stations during this 36-hour agreed shut-down.

The CNG stations found operating during the agreed shut down period of 36 hours will have their gas supply disconnected and will not be restored for 24 hours beyond the closure period and until the filing of a ‘non objection certificate’ (NOC) from the respective CNG association.

The gas utility through its advertisements in national press has been requesting all its customers to voluntarily reduce their gas consumption by 15 to 20 percent, which will facilitate the utility in providing uninterrupted gas supply to all its valued customers throughout its franchise area during the period of the annual maintenance of Bhit Gas Field. The SSGC regrets this situation for the inconvenience, which will be caused to the CNG users during 36-hour shutdown. AddThis Social Bookmark Button


Pak fails to get next tranche of IMF loan

WASHINGTON: The final round of dialogue between Pakistan and IMF ended inconclusive as the former failed to persuade in getting next tranche of loan.

Pakistani delegation, headed by Federal Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Sheikh met IMF officials in a connection with ongoing talks between Pakistan and IMF for the release of next tranche.

Talking to Geo News, Finance Minister said Pak delegation briefed IMF delegation. He said although it was a successful visit to Washington but the issue of next IMF tranche release remained unresolved.

In a meeting, issues related current economic situation in the country, pledges with IMF and their fulfillment along with targets' achievements were discussed. AddThis Social Bookmark Button


Flourmills’ strike against ban on inter-district wheat movement

KARACHI: Flourmills today went on a three-day shut down in protest against the Sindh government’s ban on the inter-district transportation of wheat.

Flourmills Association said that the supply of wheat to the Karachi flourmills has stopped, following the enforcement of section 144, which has depleted stock with the mills to meet one-day requirements only. They said that sufficient stock of wheat was available in the country and the ban on its movement was a source of paving way for the corruption.

The association said that countrywide strike would be observed in case of non-acceptance of the demands and the future line action would be finalized in the next meeting on April 17.

Flourmills said that according to the government of Sindh, the food department would buy 1.3 million tons of wheat and in a bid to meet this target the April 10 ban was imposed.  AddThis Social Bookmark Button


CNG strike hits Punjab hard

LAHORE: Most of the CNG filling stations and petrol pumps were closed on the second day of strike announced by All Pakistan CNG Association and Petroleum Retailers Association, causing inconvenience to people.

There were long queues of vehicles at a few CNG filling stations and petrol pumps that opted to continue their business.

Comparatively thing traffic was witnessed in the province metropolis due to shortage of fuel. Public transport was also thin on roads, which resulted in more and more problems for commuters.

However, in absence of normal public transport, LPG-fuelled tri-wheelers were seen busy on city roads.

According to Ghiyas Abdullah Paracha, chairman of APCNGA Supreme Council, 99 per cent CNG stations were closed in protest from Sadiqabad to Attock in the province. Out of total 2,267 CNG stations in the province, owners of 2,250 closed their business against unjustified gas distribution policy of Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Ltd (SNGPL), he added.

He maintained that CNG stations in big cities, including Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad and central and southern Punjab, were shut, supporting the strike call.

Those who opted to open CNG filling stations were involved in gas theft while some of them were members of ruling elite and opportunists, he alleged.

He expressed concern over attitude of government functionaries, saying that high-ups did not want to resolve issue of increasing gas loadshedding for CNG stations despite start of summer.

We were forced to take extreme step of closing our business, he said, adding that the masses had to suffer only due to ill-planning of government departments.

He expressed regret over problems being faced by people due to closure of CNG stations.

However, he said, government should resolve this important issue and ensure smooth supply of gas to CNG stations, providing relief to the masses. We are fighting for the cause of people as unprecedented shortage of gas should be ended as there is no justification for reducing gas supply in summer months, Paracha observed. He claimed that there was no shortage of gas in the country and intentional steps were being taken to reduce supply to Punjab. The All Pakistan CNG Association leader vowed that his association would continue its strike till the acceptance of their just demands. AddThis Social Bookmark Button


 PSO starts provision of oil on discounted rates: KESC

KARACHI: Pakistan State Oil (PSO) has started the provision of furnace oil to Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) on discounted rates.

According to the sources, government announced to grant Rs 1 billion to KESC.

KESC spokesman said they were informed that oil of worth Rs 1 billion would be provided to the company.

Earlier, the KESC sources had warned that load shedding would be increased to fourteen hours if furnace oil was not provided to them on discounted price rates. AddThis Social Bookmark Button


Be ready for 14-hour power cuts, warns KESC

Karachi: The Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) has warned that loadshedding duration across the city would be increased to 14 hours a day when gas supply from the Sui Southern Gas Company decreases by up to 80 Million Metric Cubic Feet Daily (MMCFD) due to the Annual Turn-Around (ATA) of Bhit Gas Field that starts from April 11.

The KESC Chief Financial Officer, Tayyab Tareen, told newsmen at a briefing on Thursday that talks were on with SSGC officials and other authorities concerned that gas supply to the KESC should not decrease to as low as 80 MMCFD but in case this happened then the power utility would have no option but to drastically increase load shedding. He said the KESC had been working on the plan for increased load shedding schedule in case the gas pressure dropped to the minimum of 80 MMCFD. In such a scenario of reduced gas supply the KESC would not be in a position to maintain exemption from load shedding to industrial areas of the city and the industrial estates could also face load shedding by up to eight hours.

A SSGC official said the ATA of Bhit Gas Field, having a production capacity of 345 MMCFD, would commence from April 11 for next 22 days and during first five days of the ATA, the gas supply to the KESC could decrease to the minimum of 80 MMCFD and then would gradually rise and after 22 days the gas volume would be fully restored and attain the present level of 170 to 180 MMCFD.

The KESC Chief of Finance said the KESC had already been facing gradual reduction in gas supply over past several months causing serious repercussions for the consumer-end tariff and for operations of power generation plants of the utility, some of which only operates on gas.

He said that reduction in gas supply had serious impact on electricity generation as furnace oil was 3.7 times more expensive than the natural gas and higher cost of fuel for power generation would cause a sharp increase in the financial burden for the consumers in a situation where international monetary organisations like the IMF has been demanding withdrawal of subsidy provided by the government in the power sector.

He sad the KESC demands that the allocated quota of gas for it i.e. 276 MMCFD should be provided to it as this allocation had been approved by the most relevant federal government fora including Economic Coordination Committee and such an improved volume of gas would be much helpful for the KESC to meet increasing demand of electric supply in the city.

He said the SSGC had been failing to provide a steady level of gas supply to the KESC and the gas volume being supplied has been much lower than the allocated quota of 276 MMCFD and this is the main reason barring the KESC from signing the gas purchase agreement with the SSGC.

He lamented the situation that KESC had been facing consistent reduction in gas supply when Sindh produces 70.8 per cent of the total gas production in the country. He said that overall allocation of gas supply to the power sector of the country had decreased from 43.5 per cent to 28.7 per cent from 2005 to 2010. While during the same period, allocation of gas supply for domestic sector increased from 14.9 per cent to 17.2 per cent, for general industries allocation increased from 19.5 per cent to 26.1 per cent, for fertilizer plants allocation increased from 16.4 per cent to 17.2 per cent, while for CNG station the allocation of gas has increased from 2.1 per cent to 7.7 per cent from 2005 to 2010.

He lamented the situation that the gas supply from the SSGC to power plants of Sindh and Balochistan, as per sector-wise allocation of gas by the SSGC, decreased from 38.5 per cent to 29.6 per cent from 2006 to 2010 while in the same period gas allocation for CNG stations increased from 2.4 per cent to 6.3 per cent. He said that such gradual decrease in allocation of gas supply to the power generation plants, especially that of the KESC, had been made while completely ignoring the crucial cause of electricity generation and supply for benefit of citizens, commercial, and industrial activities particularly in the city of Karachi. AddThis Social Bookmark Button



Pakistan economy facing myriad challenges: ADB

MANILA: Asian Development Bank (ADB) has said, “Pakistan economy is facing fundamental challenges---the financial deficit is mounting due to inordinate delay in increasing the income,

ADB in its Outlook Report-2011 released here said that the escalating global crude prices and the enhancement of power tariffs would intensify the inflationary pressure---the rate of inflation in the current fiscal year would be around 16 percent, while the volume of subsidies would shoot up to Rs200 billion due to flawed planning, the report forecast.

ADB report further said that the Pakistan economy severely hit by the last year flood devastations facing myriad problems and the failure of the government in expanding the tax net swelling the financial deficit.

Pakistan’s economy would grow by 2.5 percent during the current fiscal year, the report predicted. AddThis Social Bookmark Button


Crude rises to highest level in over two years

SINGAPORE: Crude prices hit fresh two-and-a-half-year highs in Asian trade on Monday as a jump in US jobs creation inspired traders, analysts said.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in May, rose 72 cents to $108.66 per barrel, topping Friday's peak of $107.93 and hitting its highest level since late September 2008.

Brent North Sea crude for May delivery advanced 40 cents to $119.10.

A strong showing in US jobs creation for March was leading crude prices higher, said Ben Westmore, minerals and energy economist for National Australia Bank in Melbourne.

"It seems to be demand factors that are causing the rise in prices.... In particular the non-farm payrolls number which was about 216,000 jobs in March which caused a slight fall in the unemployment rate," he told AFP.

"I would say the fall in the unemployment rate wasn't expected by the market so it probably gave a little extra upward impetus to oil prices," Westmore stated.

Statistics released by the US Labor Department late Friday showed unemployment in the world's biggest oil consumer at 8.8 percent in March.

"Since November 2010, the jobless rate has declined by 1.0 percentage point," the government agency noted in its press release.

Westmore said traders had over the past few sessions already priced in supply disruptions due to the ongoing Libyan conflict, but warned that crude prices could spike higher should the conflict spread to surrounding nations.

"The important thing going forward is any news on the spread of the conflicts to other countries. That would be the thing that is not yet reflected in prices and would cause prices to push higher," he said. (AFP) AddThis Social Bookmark Button


 MQM moves govt. over raise in POL prices

ISLAMABAD: High-level of contacts were reportedly witnessed between the officials from a key coalition party – MQM and government after the announcement of hike in POL product prices by OGRA late Thursday night,
Interior Minister Abdul Rehman Malik phoned members of MQM’s coordination committee, London and apprised coalition partners of the reasons that led to hike in POL prices.

Upon this, the committee members voiced strong concerns over the government’s decision. Later, MQM’s Farooq Sattar ringed Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Sheikh and AR Malik to inform about the panic that has been triggered among masses in connection with inflation in POL prices.

Also, the former demanded of latter to revisit the decision in order not to overburden the poor masses of Pakistan.

Meanwhile, Governor Sindh Dr. Ishrat-ul-Ebad too phoned Abdul Hafeez Shaikh and informed him of his party’s concerns over the hike in POL prices.

A government’s spokesman and MQM leaders have planned to hold a meeting at Governor House today (Friday) to settle the issue,

NEPRA cuts PDCs tariff by 9 paisa/unit

ISLAMABAD: National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) has issued approval to cut tariff of Power Distribution Companies (PDC) by 9 paisa per unit on Wednesday.

The reduction has been approved against fuel adjustment surcharge for the month of February only.

As per media reports, the reduction has been allowed to power distribution companies. The decision was taken during hearing held here under NEPRA chairman Khalid Saeed.

WCB took the plea during the hearing 42 percent electricity was generated through thermosize during February which was recorded low by 6 percent as compared to the corresponding period of last year.

The reduction in tariff will be applicable to all consumers except lifeline consumers.

10m cotton bales being imported by June 30

KARACHI: Uzbekistan has signaled agreement to Pakistan according to which the former would export 10 million cotton bales to latter by the end of June in the current fiscal year, Geo News reported.

As per a press release publicized by Pakistan Textile Mills Association (PTMA), Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s untiring efforts bore a fruit in form of a deal of cotton export with Uzbekistan government.

The association’s chairman Gohar Ijaz told media Uzbekistan is a ‘chief importer’ of Chinese cotton and for such imports; the former is in habit of making 80pc payments in advance.

However, he said that he was pleased with Uzbek government as Pakistan has been exempted from condition of advance payment for cotton import. AddThis Social Bookmark Button


Crude up in Asia on Libya unrest


SINGAPORE: Crude rose in Asian trade on Monday as the unrest in Libya and the Middle East showed no signs of abating, analysts said.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in May, rose 15 cents to $105.55 per barrel while Brent North Sea crude for May gained 25 cents to $115.84.

"Basically it is just the spread of political instability. Over the weekend, it got a lot worse in Syria and Yemen," said Jason Feer, analyst for Argus Media energy market researchers in Singapore.

As Moamer Kadhafi's hometown was attacked by a coalition air raid, Libyan rebels pushed west to Tripoli on Sunday and progressed towards Sirte, retaking towns they lost to government forces a week earlier.

Libyan rebels had promised that the uprising would not further hamper oil production in areas under their control, and the opposition plans to begin exporting oil "in less than a week", said a representative.

"We are producing about 100,000 to 130,000 barrels a day -- we can easily up that to about 300,000 (barrels) a day," Ali Tarhoni, the rebel representative responsible for economy, finance and oil, told a news conference at the weekend.

Oil-rich Libya was producing 1.69 million barrels a day before the unrest, according to the International Energy Agency. It is now producing 400,000 barrels a day.

In Syria, security forces strove to restore order in the northern city of Latakia on Sunday, after two days of chaos that left 15 dead and more than 150 injured in an anti-government uprising that began earlier this month.

Meanwhile, Yemen's embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh said he does not want to cling on to power and warned that only dialogue can save the country he has ruled for three decades from sliding into civil war. (AFP) AddThis Social Bookmark Button


Commodities prices down at Utility outlets

KARACHI: The prices of edible commodities have seen an acute decline at Utility outlets across the metropolis city, Karachi, sending a sigh of relief for poor people amid skyrocketing times of hike,

According to details, the price of a 10-kg sack of flour has slid by 10 rupees while ghee and oil have gone down by Rs.2 per liter.

 Bashir Babar, the zonal manager Utility Stores Corporation (USC), Karachi said the price of Special Chakki Aata has been slashed at all utility outlets, elaborating that a 10-kg bag of flour is now available at Rs.300.

He said the prices of ghee and oil have declined by Rs.2/liter. They are now selling at Rs.160 per liter at all utility stores across city. AddThis Social Bookmark Button


 Fuel fund of fed. ministers cut by half

ISLAMABAD: In an attempt to decrease government expenses, the federal government on Tuesday announced 50pc cut in fuel fund from the budget of federal ministers and other ministry divisions,

Meanwhile, all the same, the purchase of vehicles and other goods on federal government’s expense have been banned too.

This was announced in a notification from the federal government issued late Tuesday.

The notification further stated that those federal government officers who use official vehicles and enjoy fuel fund should have to drop the advantage by half so that the savings may be used for other purposes. AddThis Social Bookmark Button



Oil up in Asia on Libya tensions

SINGAPORE: Crude rose in Asian trade Tuesday as the turmoil in Libya continued to rattle investor sentiment, analysts said.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in April, gained 30 cents to $102.63 per barrel while Brent North Sea crude for May was up 43 cents to $115.39.

"Currently, we still have tensions in the Middle East underpinning oil prices. Investors are expecting that Libyan oil is not returning to the markets any time soon," said Ong Yi Ling, investment analyst for Phillip Futures in Singapore.

Oil-rich Libya was producing 1.69 million barrels a day before the unrest, according to the International Energy Agency. It is now producing 400,000 barrels a day.

Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi's Tripoli compound was rocked by blasts late Monday, his southern strongholds targeted and a navy base bombed as the US-European coalition sought to pin down Kadhafi's military and protect Libya's civilians and opposition.

The intervention by French, American and British forces in Libya has hobbled loyalist forces but offers little hint of how the situation will be resolved.

"A stalemate at current positions leaves most of the oil export ports in the hands of the Kadhafi regime," noted PetroMatrix analyst Olivier Jakob in Zurich.

In London, the Centre for Global Energy Studies warned that the tightening market is in danger of repeating the 2008 price surge, when crude futures topped $147 a barrel.

It said the oil market needed "a clear unambiguous signal" from the OPEC cartel that the lost Libyan production would be replaced. (AFP) AddThis Social Bookmark Button


Oil rises more than $2 on military action against Libya

SINGAPORE: Oil jumped by more than $2 on Monday, sending Brent to $116 after western forces launched a military campaign against Libya, raising the stakes in a civil war that has nearly paralysed crude exports from the north African nation.

Brent crude for May rose as much as $2.26 to $116.19 a barrel and was up almost 1.7 percent at $115.82 by 0026 GMT.

US crude for April rose as much as $2.12 to $103.19 and was up $1.93 at $103.

President Barack Obama has ordered US forces into the biggest military intervention in the Arab world since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, while Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi vowed to fight to the death.

Unrest over the weekend also flared in Syria and Yemen in the wake of popular uprisings that toppled long-time leaders in Tunisia and Egypt earlier this year. A crackdown on protests in Bahrain last week also had oil traders on edge.

"I can see uncertainty and fear driving the price of oil higher in the short term," said Matthew Lewis, an analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney.

"At this stage, it looks like Libya has further to play. Gaddafi still seems very defiant. We'll see further spikes and shocks in the oil market this week."

Military action on Libyan air defenses over the past two days, sanctioned by the United Nations in a Security Council resolution on Thursday, has crippled Gaddafi's capability to launch airstrikes and detect foreign aircraft, a senior US military official said on Sunday.

Still, the military intervention hit a diplomatic setback as the Arab League chief condemned the "bombardment of civilians".

The strikes began on Saturday, as a coalition of western nations vowed to prevent Gaddafi from launching attacks on civilians as he seeks to crush an uprising against his four-decade rule. (Reuters) AddThis Social Bookmark Button


KSE slips 251.66 points amid Pak-US tensions

KARACHI: Shares at local capital market ended more than two percent lower on Friday in panic selling, amid ongoing tension between Pakistan and the United States following a deadly drone strike at tribal jirga in Datta Khel area of North Waziristan, dealers said.

The Karachi Stock Exchange's (KSE) benchmark 100-share index ended 2.12 percent, or 251.66 points, lower at 11,606.61. Turnover was 125.13 million shares, compared with 117 million shares traded a day earlier.

"Panic selling was witnessed in blue chip stocks after the foreign office summoned the US Ambassador, and termed the US Strike as unjustified and intolerable," said Ahsan Mehanti, director at Arif Habib Investments Ltd.

In the currency market, the rupee firmed to end at 85.35/45 to the dollar, strengthening from Thursday's close of 85.40/50, and dealers said the local unit was expected to hold steady, thanks to rising dollar inflows largely from remittances.

Remittances rose by 20 percent to $6.96 billion in the first eight months of the 2010/11 fiscal year, compared to the same period the previous year, according to central bank data.

In the money market, overnight rates stayed at top level of 13.90 percent, unchanged from Thursday's close as there were scheduled net outflows of 111 billion rupees ($1.3 billion), against inflows of 43 billion rupees ($503 million).

Dealers expect rates to remain on the higher side amid tight liquidity in the interbank market. (Reuters) AddThis Social Bookmark Button



Oil up in Asia on Gulf tensions

SINGAPORE: Crude rose in Asian trade Friday, pushed up by ongoing tensions in the oil-rich Gulf region and impact from Japan's nuclear crisis, analysts said.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in April, gained $1.65 to $103.07 per barrel while Brent North Sea crude for May was up $1.56 to $116.46.

"The initial reaction to Japan is a sharp drop in oil demand in the short-term," said Jason Feer, analyst for Singapore-based Argus Media energy market analysts.

Tokyo shares ended the morning session up 1.77 percent Friday as investors welcomed a pledge by the Group of Seven major economies to stabilise currencies after Japan's massive earthquake.

The Nikkei index rose 158.26 points to 9,120.93 by the break.

Unrest in crude-producing Libya is also a factor behind the surge in oil prices, analysts said. AddThis Social Bookmark Button



 Over $24b export anticipated in 2011

ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Sheikh has Wednesday said his ministry was anticipating export to cross twenty-four billion dollars during the current fiscal year, adding that more sectors will have to be brought under taxation for the betterment of the levy system,
He was addressing a press conference here. He said the export has been estimated to reach over 24 billion dollars this year, hoping that crops export will surge this year owing to acute cut in production across the globe.

“Government f

aced loss of twenty billion dollars due to withdrawal of hike in POL prices some days ago,” he said. Inflation is directly linked to loans the government is seeking from central bank,” he underlined.

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 Oil down on demand concerns from quake-hit Japan

SINGAPORE: Oil fell in Asian trade Monday on concerns demand from quake-hit Japan would be affected, analysts said.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in April, dipped $1.28 to $99.88 per barrel.

Brent North Sea crude for April delivery lost $1.39 to $112.45.

"In the short term, there might be some demand disruptions due to the Japanese earthquake, but there will be an increase in fuel oil imports due to the lost nuclear power capacity, which will be supportive of fuel oil prices in the near term," said Chen Xin Yi, commodities analyst for Barclays Capital.

Crude futures fell immediately last week in reaction to Friday's massive 8.9-magnitude earthquake off Japan, unleashing a tsunami that battered the country's northeast coast and stretched across the Pacific.

Traders worry the disaster will affect energy consumption in Japan, the world's third largest economy.

Tokyo shares fell sharply in opening trade Monday as investors remained jittery over the economic consequences from the biggest earthquake in Japan's history and the devastating tsunami.

Shares fell 5.42 percent in a post-quake sell-off as the key index sank below 10,000 to its lowest levels since November.

The Nikkei index fell 556.06 points shortly after opening to 9,698.37.

Meanwhile, investors are also keeping a nervous eye on the unrest in Libya where rebels continue to battle forces loyal to leader Moamer Kadhafi.

Qatar's Energy Minister Mohammed Saleh al-Sada had said on Sunday that the world oil output was sufficient despite the unrest in Libya which had slashed the country's crude production.

Libya was producing 1.69 million barrels per day (bpd) before the unrest, according to the International Energy Agency. Of this 1.2 million bpd was exported, mostly to Europe but with China and the United States also major customers.

Oil giant Total said on Friday that the unrest has cut Libya's output by 1.4 million bpd to under 300,000. The price of oil on world markets has soared since the mid-February outbreak of the anti-government uprising. (AFP)

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 IMF urges Pakistan to tackle inflation

WASHINGTON: The International Monetary Fund on Friday urged Pakistan to take further steps to curb inflation and buffer the economic shocks of higher oil prices.

After a mission to Pakistan that ended Friday the IMF reported "constructive" talks with government and central bank officials on measures to restore economic stability and structural reforms to bolster public finances and the financial sector.

"Significant fiscal consolidation will be needed in (fiscal) 2011-2012 in order to reduce inflation and ensure debt sustainability. The lower budget deficit would also help manage the impact of higher oil prices on the economy," Adnan Mazarei, head of the mission, said in a statement.

Pakistan's fiscal year begins on July 1.

The IMF in November 2008 approved a rescue package for Pakistan. The original 23-month loan of about $7.61 billion was extended to December 30, 2010 and its value increased.

In December the IMF executive board approved a nine-month extension of Pakistan's loan package through September 30, 2011.

Mazarei said that Pakistan's budget deficit and "quasi-fiscal operations" had fueled looser monetary conditions, adding to inflationary pressures. To help to counter those pressures, the IMF official said that the government should further reduce borrowing from the central bank.(AFP) AddThis Social Bookmark Button


Stocks at KSE flat; Index sustains 12100 level

KARACHI: Stock prices remained flat at Karachi Stock Exchange (KSE) on Thursday, however, the benchmark KSE 100-share Index sustained the level of above 12,100 points,
Today’s trade at the local bourse began with an upbeat mood and at one stage the Index was seen floating around 12,218 points. But, it failed to sustain this level and soon lost all the day’s gains and closed two points down at 12,125.

The trade volume stood at 100 million shares with Lotte Pakistan leading the most traded shares’ list. It gained paisas 24 to close at Rs16.07.

Meanwhile, the younger KSE-30 Index slipped 20 points to finish at 11,870.

The stock analysts are foreseeing more ups and downs in the market for the coming sessions. AddThis Social Bookmark Button


 Govt. to withdraw 50pc GST exemption on sugar

ISLAMABAD: The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) will send a summary to the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) for granting approval to withdraw 50 percent exemption in the rate of Sales Tax on sugar, Chairman FBR Salman Siddique told reporters on Wednesday.

After the Regional Commissioners’ Conference ended here at P Block Auditorium, the chairman FBR told media persons that the FBR would send a summary to the ECC for consideration in its next meeting to withdraw exemption of 50 percent in the rate of Sales Tax on sugar.

Currently, the rate of GST on sugar is 8.5 percent and the price of sugar for discharging the tax is fixed at Rs28 per kg, which is much lower than the market price of sugar standing in the range of Rs65 to 70 per kg. “In case of withdrawal of 50 percent exemption on sugar Sales Tax, the sugar will become dearer for Pakistanis,” a market player told this scribe on Wednesday.

On the question of FBR’s target for 2010-11, chairman FBR said that the annual tax target was revised downward from Rs1,667 billion to Rs1,604 billion because of government’s inability to impose the Value Added Tax (VAT) that was aimed at collecting Rs73 billion.

“Now with the proposed taxation measures of 15 percent flood surcharge and 2.5 percent excise duty from April 1, the FBR will strive to achieve its revised target of Rs1,604 billion,” he maintained.

It is relevant to mention here that the FBR was earlier talking about revised target in the range of Rs1,630 billion along with additional taxation before holding talks with the IMF’s team, as the FBR chairman had informed the Senate Standing Committee in the recent past that their revenue target was Rs1,630 billion. AddThis Social Bookmark Button



Oil prices ease as Saudi downplays supply fears

NEW YORK: Saudi Arabia's assurances Tuesday that it would counter any disruptions of the global oil market pushed crude prices down Tuesday, but Libya's ongoing turmoil kept a floor on the market.

The world's largest oil supplier has 3.5 million barrels of day in spare capacity and is building up inventories in strategic locations, Oil Minister Ali Naimi said in a statement clearly aimed at calming markets.

"The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has long been committed to promoting market stability in the interest of both producers and consumers, and in support of global economic growth and development," Naimi said.

"Time after time we have delivered on that commitment by tapping our additional crude oil production capacity when supply conditions warranted, and Saudi Arabia will continue to reliably meet the world's petroleum needs," he said.

Prices dropped quickly following the statement, but traders clearly remained cautious over the tentative political situation in many Arab countries, including in Saudi Arabia.

New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate for delivery in April, shed 42 cents to settle at $105.02 a barrel, one day after soaring to $106.95 -- the highest level for 30 months.

In London, Brent North Sea crude for April delivery was down $1.98 to $113.06.

"Prices are rising and falling on the temperature of the Libyan situation," said John Kilduff of Again Capital.

But Tuesday's market was also driven by "all the chatter about OPEC putting more oil on the market," he said.

Members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, which pumps about 40 percent of the world's oil, are holding talks over the oil market in light of the Libyan turmoil. (AFP) AddThis Social Bookmark Button


Gold price hits new peak at Rs46000/tola

KARACHI: Gold price has hit a new peak across the country at Rs46,000 per tola.

President All Sindh Sarafa Association, Haji Haroon Chand told Geo News that the price of gold on Monday witnessed a rise of Rs350 per tola to hit a new height at Rs46,000.

Earlier, the commodity had hit a record high at Rs45,575 on December 7, 2010.

Haji Haroon Chand said the prices of Gold in local market are experiencing a rise as a result of increased demand of the commodity in the international markets. Its price in the international market surged by 6.5 dollars to 1338 dollars per ounce.

Similarly, silver price across the country also rose by Rs20 per tola to a record level at Rs1,050. AddThis Social Bookmark Button


 Oil rises in Asian trade, NY crude gushes over $106

SINGAPORE: Oil rose higher in Asian trade Monday with the New York contract surging past $106 in the afternoon, a new two-year high as turmoil in the Middle East continued to unsettle investors, analysts said.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for April delivery, rose $1.76 to $106.18, while Brent North Sea crude for April was up $1.16 at $117.13.

"Oil prices continue to be on the up trend primarily due to the deepening conflict in Libya, and concerns about the protests spreading to other parts of the Middle East's oil-producing region," said Victor Shum, a senior principal for international energy consultants Purvin and Gertz.

"Concerns over oil supply disruptions in Middle East and North Africa continue to drive oil prices," the Singapore-based energy expert said.

Heavy fighting continued in Libya as forces loyal to leader Moamer Kadhafi battled rebels for control of the country's key cities and oil ports.

Libya is the fourth biggest oil exporter in Africa after Nigeria, Algeria and Angola, producing around 1.8 million barrels a day, with reserves of 42 billion barrels.

The bulk of its oil production is normally exported to Europe, according to the International Energy Agency.

Meanwhile, the White House said Sunday it had not ruled out tapping the country's strategic oil reserves to counter the sharp rise in crude prices.

"Well, we're looking at the options. The issue of the reserves is one we're considering," White House chief of staff William Daley told NBC.

"There's a bunch of factors that have to be looked at. And it is just not the price," but also uncertainty stemming from unrest in the oil-rich Middle East and North Africa, he stressed.

Daley said President Barack Obama was "extremely concerned" about the rising price of oil and its impact on the struggling US economy. (AFP) AddThis Social Bookmark Button



 UK minister says Arab unrest can double crude prices

LONDON: The price of a barrel of crude could double if the unrest in the Arab world deteriorates, oil trader turned British international development minister Alan Duncan warned Saturday.

Duncan, who has 30 years' business experience in the Gulf, told that the price of a barrel of crude could top $200 (140 euros), well above the record high of $147 reached in July 2008.

If extremists used the instability in the Arab world to bomb oil tankers, pipelines or Saudi reserves, prices could even hit $250 a barrel, Duncan said.

Analysts fear such highs could trigger another recession in Britain.

"I've been saying in government for two months... $200 is on the cards if this goes wrong, if anyone is reckless and foments unrest. All I'm predicting is danger," said Duncan. "It could be very serious. If crude oil doubles, you're going to have a very serious spike (in petrol prices). Try living without it for a week."

The British government is under pressure over the price at the pumps, with 63 percent of the cost going to the exchequer.

If the worst happened, current prices of #1.30 ($2.10, 1.50 euros) a litre at the pump "could look like a luxury", Duncan said, warning of #4 a litre.

"A Twittered-up generation now has massive power. All Arab countries are moving on. But they are all different," he said. "The powers are shifting but you can't do it overnight. We are asking them to do at the flick of a switch what we took centuries to do. "The majority of these rulers are not dictators. These are countries with their own history and cultures. Who are we to lecture? We must treat these countries with respect." The people who want all unelected leaders to go should remember Iran, Duncan said.(AFP) AddThis Social Bookmark Button


 Govt. reverses POL price hike by 50pc

KARACHI: Setting the example of an appreciating move, the government, after strong objections raised from opposition and allied parties, has taken back fifty percent rise in petroleum product prices, Geo News reported.

The slash of 50% is applicable on the recent 9.9 percent hike in POL product prices, which means after upping prices by 7 rupees, the government reversed the price by 3.5 rupees.

According to sources, in a major development late on Thursday night, the government announced that the recent increase in the POL prices was being slashed by half. This effectively means that instead of 9.9 percent increase in the prices, there would now be a 4.95 percent increase only.

Announcing the decision at a joint press conference with MQM leaders at the Sindh Governor’s House, Minister of Interior Rehman Malik said that there were many similarities in the PPP and MQM’s agenda.

He hoped that after this announcement, the transporters in Karachi would take back the strike call, which on Thursday had impacted business and social activities in the city. He said that for governments, it was difficult to take back decisions once announced and they would face problems in convincing the IMF. “Such decisions are taken under public pressure but then that is the strength of democracy.”

MQM leader Farooq Sattar said that his party had held a several hour-long session with the government team in this regard. Admitting that the economy was under pressure, he said that all issues can be resolved through talks. He credited Muttahida chief Altaf Hussain for the cut in the fuel price hike.

Speaking on the occasion, Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh said they had wanted that there should be no increase in petrol prices. However, the world has seen a 26 percent increase in petroleum prices while Pakistan raised prices by 9.9 percent only.

He said that they would take along their coalition partners and the people would be provided relief. He added that coalition partners would also be consulted while preparing the next budget.

Earlier, on February 28, the government had increased the price of high-speed diesel by Rs7.76 per litre to Rs86.09 and of petrol (motor spirit) by Rs7.23 per litre to Rs80.19 per litre. Similarly, the price of Kerosene oil had gone up by Rs7 per litre, HOBC by Rs8.58 per litre and Light Diesel Oil (LDO) increased by Rs6.60 per litre.

However, the increase was greeted by countrywide protests with almost all political parties strongly reacting to it. Tahir Hasan Khan adds: Earlier, Presidential spokesperson Farhatullah Babar said that Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh and Governor State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Shahid Kardar called on President Asif Ali Zardari on Thursday night at the Bilawal House, where they agreed on a formula for a cut in fuel prices.

The economic managers briefed the president about the state of the economy and the steps being taken to address the challenges. The president emphasised the need for enlarging the social safety net for the poorest of the poor, broadening the tax base and giving special incentives for attracting remittances from the overseas Pakistanis through regular banking channels.

Earlier, the finance minister, along with the SPB governor, met a delegation of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) at the Governor’s House and discussed the economic issues, including the latest fuel price hike. He also listened to the MQM’s reservations and demands in this regard.

The finance minister and the SBP governor went to the Bilawal House and briefed the president about their meeting with the MQM delegates. The three agreed on a formula to cut the fuel prices.

President Zardari separately met an ANP delegation, which called on him at the Bilawal House, and took them into confidence about the decision. The ANP team was led by the party’s president in Sindh Shahi Syed, who apprised the president of the problems being faced by transporters due to the increase in the fuel prices. AddThis Social Bookmark Button


Govt hikes petrol price by Rs7.23/ltr

ISLAMABAD: Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) has raised the prices of petroleum products by 9.9 percent, to be applicable from Monday midnight (March 1, 2011),
According to OGRA spokesman Jawad Nasim, petrol price has been hiked by Rs7.23 per litre to Rs80.19; High Speed Diesel by Rs7.76 to Rs86.09 per litre; Light Speed Deisel made expensive by Rs.6.60; HOBC Rs8.58 to Rs95.25; and Kerosene Oil Rs7 to Rs77.95 per litre.

The government had kept the price of petroleum products unchanged for the past two months as a result of pressure from all the mainstream political parties. AddThis Social Bookmark Button


Oil up in Asia as Middle East unrest spreads

SINGAPORE: Crude prices jumped in Asian trade Monday with New York futures again in sight of $100 a barrel after unrest in the oil-rich Middle East broadened, analysts said.

Brent North Sea crude for delivery in April gained $1.28 to $113.42 per barrel while New York's main contract, light sweet crude for April delivery, rose $1.66 to $99.54 a barrel.

The New York contract for West Texas Intermediate oil had hit $103.41 on Thursday, a level last seen in September 2008, and Brent came close to $120 before Saudi Arabia assured markets that it was ready to boost supplies.

"The unrest in the Middle East and fears that the situation will worsen are still supporting oil prices despite news that Saudi Arabia will increase output," said Ong Yi Ling, investment analyst for Phillip Futures in Singapore.

Anti-government turmoil now convulsing Libya and much of the Middle East spread to Oman, another Gulf oil exporter, over the weekend with police shooting dead two demonstrators.

Major crude producer Iran on Sunday urged OPEC, especially Saudi Arabia, to refrain from any unilateral hike in oil output, saying current crude production was enough to meet any shortages arising over the unrest in Libya.

"There is no need for OPEC members to be hasty and take unilateral decisions" to raise output, Oil Minister Masoud Mirkazemi said of Saudi Arabia, when asked to comment on Riyadh's offer to compensate for any shortage.

Mirkazemi, the current president of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), said the oil cartel had so far not decided to hold any extraordinary session to discuss a raise in output.

Saudi Arabia, OPEC's largest producer of oil, pumps around 8.4 million barrels of oil per day and Iran is the cartel's second largest exporter.(AFP) AddThis Social Bookmark Button


Stocks tumble 405.24 points on foreign selling

KARACHI: Shares at local capital market tumbled by more than 3.5 percent on Friday on foreign selling and political uncertainty, dealers said.

"There is panic selling in the market. Foreign investors are selling because of the global sell-off, political uncertainity and the rise in international oil prices," said Ayub Ansari, analyst at Invest and Finance Securities Ltd.

The Karachi Stock Exchange's (KSE) benchmark 100-share index was 3.59 percent, or 405.24 points, lower at 11,134.02 on turnover of 104.86 million shares by 3:32 p.m. (1032 GMT).

Global oil jumped by more than $2 to above $113 per barrel on Friday as another bout of nerves spread in the market on concerns that widening unrest in Libya could hit fuel supplies.

Brent oil had pulled back following a 7 percent surge to almost $120 on Thursday after rumours that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi had been shot, and on Saudi Arabia's reassurances that it could counter Libyan supply disruptions.

Saudi reassurances were not enough to calm jittery markets, with analysts predicting that further rise in oil prices could trigger more selling in stocks and other risky assets.

The KSE has a small market capitalisation and selling of $2 million to $3 million amid lack of buyers would spark a sell off, analysts said.

Dealers said political uncertainity also triggered the sell off at the local bourse.

"There are many reasons for the fall in the market, one being the outcome of the PML-N meeting," said Sajid Bhanji, director at brokers Arif Habib Ltd.

"There are also issues regarding the economic scenario, regarding the fiscal deficit following a rise in international oil prices," said Bhanji.

Government bowed to political pressure last month and reversed its decision to increase fuel prices, which is likely to further widen the country's fiscal deficit.

It has kept the fuel prices unchanged since November 2010.

Dealers said there was selling pressure also as investors wait for a decision regarding the Raymond Davis case.
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PSO defers import of 1 million tonne POL products

KARACHI: Pakistan State Oil (PSO) has deferred import of one million tonne of different oil products owing to financial restraints, Geo News reported on Tuesday.

The decision to import oil for March-April period has been deferred for one week.

It may be noted here that large-scale consumers of POL products owed to PSO a cumulative sum of Rs158.4 billion. In turn, PSO owed Rs40 billion to Kuwait Petroleum and other international petroleum companies besides Rs86 billion to various refineries.

PSO had requested to the financial ministry for issuance of Rs80 billion, of which Rs30 billion are expected to be released this week. AddThis Social Bookmark Button


KSE closes at bearish note at weekend

KARACHI: Prices of local stocks ended down on Friday over concerns of escalating tensions between Pakistan and the United States, but dealers said some buying was seen at textile company Nishat Mills after it announced healthy results.

A Pakistani man is demanding the arrest of a second U.S. Embassy employee in Pakistan, his lawyer said on Friday, adding fuel to an incident that has severely strained ties between Washington and Islamabad.

The move comes as U.S. officials pressure Pakistan to release Raymond Davis, a U.S. consulate employee who is being held in prison after shooting and killing two Pakistanis in the city of Lahore last month, in what he said was an attempted robbery.

The Karachi Stock Exchange's benchmark 100-share index ended 0.17 percent, or 20.62 points, lower at 12,041.15.

Turnover rose to 70.36 million shares from 60.38 million shares, a four month low, traded on Thursday.

Dealers said investors accumulated shares of Nishat Mills, volume leader, at lower levels after its announced strong corporate results. It ended 2.56 percent higher at 62.90rupees. The rupee firmed on Friday amid a lack of import payments and dealers said the rupee is expected to move in a narrow band in the short term.

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 Oil rebounds to near $86 on relief after Mubarak quits

SINGAPORE: U.S. oil prices rebounded on Monday to near $86 a barrel, after sinking to a 10-week low in the previous session, as tension in the Middle East region dissipated following the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

London crude prices extended their rally to near $102 a barrel, after the March contract expired with a gain in the previous session.

Mubarak's departure, after 18 days of mass protests, relieved fears over potential supply disruptions and the spread of turmoil to key oil producers in the Middle East region.

"Concerns over a potential disruption to supplies have eased, and now that the immediate threat is out of the way, the market will start focusing again on macroeconomic fundamentals," said Ben Westmore, a commodities analyst with National Australia Bank.

U.S. crude for March delivery rose 11 cents to $85.69 a barrel by 0715 GMT, after settling $1.15 lower at $85.58 a barrel on Friday, the lowest close in 10 weeks and down almost 4 percent on the week.

Brent crude for April delivery jumped 70 cents to $101.64 a barrel, after settling at $100.94 a barrel in the previous session. The expired March contract rose 56 centsto settle at $101.43 a barrel, off its $102.03 intraday peak.

The spread between the two grades was just below $16, after settling at a record of $16.27 a barrel in the previous session. Westmore expects U.S. crude prices to hold in the mid-$80 a barrel range this week, while Brent prices are expected to stay in a range of $98-$102 a barrel.(Reuters)

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