The big easing continues. A major surprise today from the Bank of Thailand, which cut interest rates by 25 basis points to 2.75 percent. After repeated indications from Governor Prasarn Trairatvorakul that policy would stay unchanged for now, few had expected the bank to deliver its first rate cut since January. But given the decision was not unanimous, it appears that Prasarn was overruled. As in South Korea last week, the need to boost domestic demand dictated the BoT’s decision. The Thai central bank noted:
Jim O’ Neill, creator of the BRIC investment concept, has been exasperated by repeated calls in the past to exclude one or another country from the quartet, based on either economic growth rates, equity performance or market structure. In the early years, Brazil’s eligibility for BRIC was often questioned due to its anaemic growth; then it was the turn of oil-dependent Russia. Over the past couple of years many turned their sights on India due to its reform stupor. They have suggested removing it and including Indonesia in its place.
Another central bank has caved in and cut interest rates — South Africa lowered its key rate to a record low of 5 percent at Thursday’s meeting. In doing so, the central bank noted growth was slowing further. “Negative spillover effects (from the global economy) likely to intensify,” it said.
Interest rate meetings are coming up this week in Turkey, South Africa and Mexico. Most analysts expect no change to interest rates in any of the three countries. But chances are, the worsening global growth picture will force policymakers to soften their tone from previous months; indeed forwards markets are actually pricing an 18-20 basis-point interest rate cut in South Africa.
Emerging equities’ amazing first quarter rally now seems a distant memory. In fact MSCI’s main emerging markets index recently spent 11 straight weeks in the red, the longest lossmaking stretch in the history of the index. The reasons are clear — the euro zone is in danger of breakup, growth is dire in the West and stuttering in the East. Weaker oil and metals prices are hitting commodity exporting countries.
Indian markets are rallying this week as they price in an interest rate cut at the Reserve Bank’s June 18 meeting. With the country still in shock after last week’s 5.3 percent first quarter GDP growth print, it is easy to understand the clamour for rate cuts. After all, first quarter growth just a year ago was 9.2 percent.