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Turkmen Banks Halt Hard-Currency Sales

Banks in Turkmenistan have stopped selling hard currencies, sparking a jump in black-market rates amid fears of a fresh devaluation.

Employees at banks in the capital, Ashgabat, told customers on January 12 that the ban on the sale of U.S. dollars and other hard currencies would remain in place indefinitely.

Turkmenistan, whose main export is natural gas, devalued the manat by about 19 percent to 3.5 manats per dollar on January 1, 2015.

Rumors of another sharp devaluation have created strong demand for foreign currencies, with long lines reported daily outside exchange bureaus in Ashgabat and elsewhere.

The U.S. dollar jumped to 4.0-4.2 manats on the black market on January 12 from 3.6-3.7 manats, according to the AP news agency.

Neighboring Kazakhstan, also an exporter of hydrocarbons, switched to a floating exchange rate in August.

Since then, its currency, the tenge, has lost almost half its value against the U.S. dollar.

Based on reporting by AP and Reuters