By HAMZA HENDAWICAIRO (AP) — Egypt on Thursday took the unprecedented step of floating its currency and later hiked fuel prices, meeting key demands by the International Monetary Fund under a $12 billion loan agreement to overhaul the ailing economy of the most populous Arab state. The floatation, accompanied by a 48 percent devaluation of the Egyptian pound, is the boldest economic measure taken by President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi since his election in 2014. For the first time, Egypt's currency will fluctuate according to supply and demand. El-Sissi has often asserted that tough times lie ahead as the country struggles with an array of economic woes, from double-digit inflation to unemployment and an acute foreign currency shortage. At midnight Thursday, fuel prices were hiked, with gasoline, diesel and the infrequently used natural gas all going up between 30 and 46.8 percent, according to state media. Past fuel price hikes had a far reaching knock-on effect, triggering a matching increase in food and transport prices. Word of Thursday's hikes was leaked late at night, sparking a rush by motorists to gas stations, where long lines of vehicles formed across much of the country. The Central Bank said in a statement the floatation would "completely end" the black currency market and "empower the Egyptian economy to face the present challenges, unleash its potential and achieve the hoped-for growth." Central Bank Governor Tareq Amer was upbeat when he addressed a news conference, saying "this is a big turning point in the Egyptian economy. We could not tolerate dual (foreign currency) markets continuing." It may, however, be too early for the government to declare victory in its battle against the unofficial currency market, which has for decades served as a lifeline for a private sector that heavily depends on dollars to finance imports, given longstanding limits on foreign currency withdrawals on the official market and the recent dollar shortage.