This week in EM, expect more doves

September 24, 2012

With the U.S. Fed having cranked up its printing presses, there seems little to stop emerging central banks from extending their own rate cut campaigns this week.

The most interesting meeting promises to be in the Czech Republic. We saw some extraordinary verbal intervention last week from Governor Miroslav Singer, implying not only a rate cut but also recourse to “unconventional” monetary loosening tools. Of the 21 analysts polled by Reuters, 18 are expecting a rate cut on Thursday to a record low 0.25 percent.  Indeed, in a world of currency wars, a rate cut could be just what the recession-mired Czech economy needs. But Singer’s deputy, Moimir Hampl,  has muddled the waters by refuting the need for any unusual policies or even rate cuts.  Expect a heated debate (forward markets are siding with Singer and pricing a rate cut).

Hungary is a closer call, with 16 out of 21 analysts in a Reuters poll predicting an on-hold decision. The central bank board (MPC) is split too. Analysts at investment bank SEB point out that last month’s somewhat surprising rate cut was down to the four central bank board members appointed by the government. These four outvoted Governor Andras Simor and his two deputies who had favoured holding rates steady, given rising inflation. (Inflation is running at 6 percent, double the target).  That could happen again, given the government just last week reiterated the need for “lower interest rates and ample credit.  So SEB analysts write:

The 4-3 majority of the MPC has shown their appetite for cuts which according to the minutes could continue as long as “the perception of the economy continue to improve”. The current 282 level of the euro/forint would not in our view stand in the way of another cut.

Elsewhere in the region, Israel and Romania are expected to make no change to interest rates, with both banks swayed by recent spikes in inflation.

In Latin America, investors’ eyes will be on Colombia which has delivered back-to-back interest rate cuts and may provide another on Friday.  Sure,  Colombia’s economy was  robust in the second quarter but since then economic data has been hinting at some weakness ahead. Inflation is well-behaved.  Most importantly, Bogota cannot afford to let its peso appreciate even as its neighbours and trade partners weaken their currencies.  The central bank has already been intervening to buy dollars — a rate cut would take some of the pressure off, say Goldman Sachs analysts:

The authorities, particularly the Treasury, remain every concerned with the exchange rate dynamics and the peso’s overvaluation. Hence, another 25bp rate cut also helps the authorities’ to contain/mitigate the pressure on the COP to appreciate.

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