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Rising dollar inflow leads highest LC openings in 23 months

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A surge in the inflow of remittances and export proceeds has led to an increase in dollar supply in commercial banks, resulting in the highest letter of credit (LC) openings in the last 23 months in May.

However, LC settlements during the same period experienced a slight decline compared to April.

Bangladesh Bank data shows in May, both the government and private commercial banks opened import LCs amounting to $6.83 billion.

The previous highest $7.02 billion worth of LCs were opened in June 2022. Since then, despite fluctuations, LC openings have generally followed a decreasing trend.

In April of the current year, LCs worth $5.68 billion were opened. LC openings in May increased by more than 20% compared to April. In comparison to the same period in 2023, LC openings in May increased by 19.5%.

According to several policy-setting officials from both government and private commercial banks, the inflow of dollars in May was higher compared to normal times. One significant reason cited was the receipt of remittances amounting to $2.25 billion in that month. The figure stands in contrast to an average monthly remittance inflow of less than $2 billion in the current fiscal year.

Besides, despite a decrease in overall exports in May, there was a slight increase in export LCs in banks compared to previous times. Payments for previously made exports started arriving. With the initiation of the crawling peg in the exchange rate on 8 May, exporters are obtaining more favourable rates for dollars, prompting them to bring these back into the country.

Syed Mahbubur Rahman, managing director and chief executive officer, Mutual Trust Bank, told the nes reporter, “Due to the recent activation of the interbank dollar market, which was previously inactive, banks are now able to collect dollars from there. As a result, even though some banks have experienced a decrease in remittances, they are gaining confidence in acquiring dollars from the interbank market. This assurance has enabled them to open more Import LCs.”

The banks in the country are benefiting from the introduction of the crawling peg in the exchange rate system, he said.

“The crawling peg system has reduced the gap between the market rate and the dollar rate, giving customers more confidence to open LCs.”

Mahbubur also said similar to industrial raw materials, the volume of LCs for intermediate goods imports also rose. He mentioned that this trend is positive for the economy.

The deputy managing director of a private commercial bank said due to a favourable inflow of dollars in May, commercial banks are increasing their LC openings.

He mentioned that there has always been demand for LC openings, but previously they used to be more cautious in approving import LCs. For example, if someone applied for 5 LCs earlier, they might have approved only 2. However, in May, due to the good dollar flow, they on average approved 4 out of 5 LC applications.

In May, there was a slight increase in opening LCs for government imports, including jute oil and fertilisers. An official from a state-owned bank said one of the main reasons for this increase is the greater availability of foreign exchange, which facilitated more LC openings in bank accounts.

Ali Reza Iftekhar, managing director and chief executive officer of Eastern Bank told the news reporter, “Our liquidity situation in dollars has improved compared to before. Remittance flows are now steady. Moreover, our bank’s export proceeds have also increased. Additionally, there are now dollar transactions happening in the interbank market, which has led to an increase in dollar inflows.”

Transactions in this market were almost closed for a long time, he said, adding, “As a result, we have been able to increase our LC openings for imports. This trend will gradually move towards further improvement.”

LC openings, however, may decrease slightly in June due to the banks’ accounts being closed for a few days during Eid, said a senior official of a leading private bank.

“Besides, RMG and production-related houses remained closed for several days during Eid. As a result, there is reduced demand for raw materials. These factors contribute to a trend of decreased LC openings for imports during the Eid months.”

In the first 11 months of the current fiscal year, a total of $63.02 billion worth of import LCs were opened — a slight year-on-year increase from $62.08 billion.

LC settlements in May decrease slightly

In May, banks settled import LC payments totalling $5.48 billion, which was 5% lower compared to April, central bank data shows.

A senior official of the central bank said currently, the pressure on deferred LC payments has reduced compared to before. “Banks have reduced opening deferred LCs to mitigate exchange rate risks. Consequently, the volume of payments has also decreased,” he said.

In the first 11 months of the current fiscal year, LC settlements for imports decreased by 12% to $60.79 billion compared to the same period of the previous fiscal year.

A managing director of a private bank said due to lower LC openings in the past two years, pressure on payments reduced. Currently, banks are selling dollars at rates between Tk118.40 and Tk118.70 for LC settlements. On the other hand, they are collecting dollars from remittances at rates ranging from Tk117.80 to Tk118.30.

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UK inflation holds at 2% in June: official data

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Britain’s inflation rate held steady in June after returning to the Bank of England’s target the previous month, official data showed Wednesday, confounding expectations for another modest slowdown.

The Consumer Prices Index was unchanged at 2.0 percent in June from the same level in May, the Office for National Statistics said in a statement, compared with market forecasts of 1.9 percent.

“Hotel prices rose strongly, while second-hand car costs fell but by less than this time last year,” said ONS chief executive Grant Fitzner.
“However, these were offset by falling clothing prices, with widespread sales driving down their cost.

“Meanwhile, the cost of both raw materials and goods leaving factories fell on the month, though factory gate prices remain above where they were a year ago.”

Analysts said the data could cause the Bank of England to sit tight for a while longer before starting to cut interest rates.

“The chances of an interest rate cut in August have diminished a bit more,” said Paul Dales, chief UK economist at research consultancy Capital Economics.

Last month, the BoE kept its key interest rate at a 16-year high of 5.25 percent, despite slowing inflation in May.

Britain’s newly elected Labour government welcomed news that inflation remained at the BoE’s target level.

“It is welcome that inflation is at target,” said Darren Jones, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, in a statement.

“But we know that for families across Britain prices remain high… (which) is why this government is taking the tough decisions now to fix the foundations” of the UK economy, he said.

Labour, led by new Prime Minister Keir Starmer, has pledged immediate action to grow the economy after the centre-left party won a landslide general election victory to end 14 years of Conservative rule.

Later on Wednesday, King Charles III will read out Labour’s first programme for government in a decade and a half, when the UK parliament formally reopens following the July 4 election.
Elevated interest rates have worsened a UK cost-of-living squeeze because they increase borrowing repayments, thereby cutting disposable incomes and crimping economic activity.

The BoE began a series of rate hikes in late 2021 to combat inflation, which rose after countries emerged from Covid lockdowns and accelerated after the invasion of Ukraine by key oil and gas producer Russia.

 

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China’s economy grew less than expected in second quarter: official data

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China’s economy grew 4.7 percent year-on-year in the second quarter of 2024, official data showed Monday, less than analysts had expected.

“By quarter, the GDP for the first quarter increased by 5.3 percent year on year and for the second quarter 4.7 percent,” Beijing’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said in a statement.

The figures were much lower than the 5.1 percent predicted by analysts polled by Bloomberg.

Retail sales — a key gauge of consumption — also slowed to just two percent in June, the NBS said, down from 3.7 percent in May.

The world’s second-largest economy is grappling with a real estate debt crisis, weakening consumption, an ageing population and trade tensions with Western rivals.

Top officials are meeting in Beijing on Monday for a key plenum, with all eyes on how they might kickstart lacklustre growth.

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Concerns Mount Over Revenue Loss as South Asia’s Largest Land Port Curtails Operations

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Bangladeshi officials are grappling with fears of revenue loss as the largest land port in South Asia, situated along the India-Bangladesh border, has ceased operations for 10 hours each day since July 11.

The Petrapole Land Port in India, crucial for trade between the two nations, has been shutting down from 6 PM to 8 AM daily, without providing any explanation for the closure, according to officials from the Benapole Land Authority in Bangladesh. This unexpected halt has left Bangladeshi authorities and traders in a state of uncertainty, as there is no indication of when the operations might resume to normalcy.

Industry insiders warn that this disruption could lead to a significant revenue shortfall at Benapole port due to decreased imports, adversely affecting Bangladeshi importers with delayed product deliveries.

Rezaul Karim, Director of Traffic at Benapole Land Port Authority, emphasized that while Benapole has been maintaining 24-hour operations, Petrapole’s recent restrictions are hindering cargo truck movements after evening.

“We have inquired with the Petrapole port authority about the reasons for halting trade services after evening. They responded that the matter is under discussion with relevant authorities,” Karim said.

Sultan Mahmud Bipul, Secretary of Benapole C&F Agent Association International Checkpost Affairs, highlighted the fiscal implications of this disruption. “Benapole port has set a revenue target of Tk6,705 crore from imported goods for the fiscal year 2024-25. If the 24-hour import facility remains discontinued, it will severely impact our revenue targets,” he noted.

Ziaur Rahman, General Secretary of Benapole Landport Importers and Exporters Association, pointed out the severe impact on trade, particularly with perishable goods. “Traders dealing with perishable food products are incurring the biggest losses due to this halt. The inability of goods trucks to enter after evening will widen the trade deficit,” Rahman remarked.

As the situation unfolds, the Benapole Land Port Authority and associated trade bodies continue to seek clarity and resolution from their Indian counterparts to mitigate the economic repercussions of this operational disruption.

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