KARACHI – The Karachi stock market closed higher on Tuesday led by the banking sector after National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) announced higher-than-expected corporate earnings, dealers said.

NBP reported a net profit of 17.6 billion rupees ($193.51 million) in 2011, compared with 17.56 billion rupees in 2010. However, earnings grew by 87 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011 (Sept-Dec) over the third quarter.

“National Bank surprised the market with the cash dividend of 7.5 rupees per share and 10 percent bonus,” said Samar Iqbal, a dealer at Topline Securities Ltd. “And as a result of this, more than 40 million shares were traded.”

NBP closed 0.39 percent higher at 54.03 rupees.

The Karachi Stock Exchange (KSE) benchmark 100-share index rose 0.35 percent, or 46.03 points, higher at 13,324.34 points.

Turnover fell to 250.51 million shares, compared with 295.14 million shares traded on Monday.

In the currency market, the rupee ended weaker at 90.88/93 to the dollar, compared to its close on Monday of 90.85/90 because of higher import payments of oil.

International oil prices were trading above $123 a barrel on Tuesday.

The rupee touched a record low of 91.28 to the dollar in January, pressured by concerns about higher payments for oil imports and Pakistan’s overall economic health.

The State Bank of Pakistan warned last month that financing the country’s projected current account deficit would be a challenge.

The current account recorded a provisional deficit of $2.633 billion in the first seven months of the 2011/12 fiscal year, compared with a $96 million deficit in the same period last year, according to central bank data.

The deficit is expected to widen further in the coming months because of debt repayments and a lack of external aid.

Islamabad started repaying an $8 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan last month with a $399 million payment. Dealers said they were also cautious after the IMF advised Pakistan to take immediate steps to tackle growing budget pressures and raise interest rates to contain inflation.

The central bank kept the key policy rate flat at 12 percent for the next two months in its monetary policy announcement in February.

The IMF last month projected a widening of Pakistan’s budget deficit in the 2011/12 fiscal year to 7 percent of gross domestic product, compared with the government’s revised budget target of 4.7 percent.

In the money market, overnight rates were unchanged at their top level of 11.90 percent amid tight liquidity in the interbank market.