On Tuesday we remarked on the increasingly perilous plight of yet another country whose economy has come under increased pressure from plunging oil prices and China’s move to devalue the yuan: Kazakhstan.
Just one day after allowing the tenge to fall sharply in the interbank market and no longer able to take the pain from falling crude prices, the country moved to a free float for the tenge overnight, causing the currency to plunge by a quarter.
The move is clearly a desperate attempt to preserve export competitiveness in the face of a falling rouble and a devalued yuan. This is the third time the country’s central bank has devalued the currency since 1999 – the last time was in February of 2014.
Although central bank governor Kairat Kelimbetov put on a brave face and very rationally explained that “this is not a devaluation, this is a transition to a freely floating rate when the market itself determines a balanced exchange rate on the basis of demand and offer,” it’s quite clear that the situation for the country’s exporters had become dire and bringing the tenge more inline with moves seen in the currencies of China and Russia (Kazakhstan’s top trading partners) was probably long overdue. Here’s Bloomberg:
The central Asian nation, which counts Russia and China as its top trading partners, said it was switching to a free float, triggering a 23 percent slide in the tenge to a record 257.21 per dollar. Following the shock yuan devaluation last week, a gauge of 20 developing-nation exchange rates capped its longest slump since 2000, and losses continued this week as Vietnam devalued the dong and currencies from Russia to Turkey fell at least 3 percent.
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