This week’s interest rate meetings in the developing world are highlighting that despite slower economic growth, inflation remains a problem for many countries. In some cases it could constrain policymakers from cutting interest rates, or least from cutting as much as they would like.
All eyes on Poland’s central bank this week to see if it will finally join the monetary easing trend underway in emerging markets. Chances are it will, with analysts polled by Reuters unanimous in predicting a 25 basis point rate cut when the central bank meets on Wednesday. Data has been weak of late and signs are Poland will struggle even to achieve 2 percent GDP growth in 2013.
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:
More and more emerging central banks have been embarking on the policy easing path in recent weeks. But Chile and Turkey which hold rate-setting meetings this Thursday are not expected to emulate them. Both are expected to hold interest rates steady for now.
Taiwan and Philippines have joined the easing crew. Taiwan cut interbank lending rates for the first time in 33 months on Friday while Philippines lowered the rate it pays banks on short-term special deposits. Hardly surprising. Given South Koreas’s shock rate cut on Thursday, its first in over three years, and China’s two rate cuts in quick succession, the spread of monetary easing across Asia looks inevitable. Markets are now betting the Reserve Bank of India will also cut rates in July.
Emerging market investors may have got used to policy surprises from Turkey’s central bank but they don’t expect them from South Korea. Such are the times, however, that the normally staid Bank of Korea shocked investors this morning with an interest rate cut, the first in three years. Most analysts had expected it to stay on hold. But with the global economic outlook showing no sign of lightening, the BoK probably felt the need to try and stimulate sluggish domestic demand. (To read coverage of today’s rate cut see here).
The Greek vote next Sunday now stands front and centre of pretty much all investment thinking, but the problem is that it may still be days and weeks before we get a true picture of what’s happened, whether a government can be formed and what their stance will be. If the new parliament cannot clearly back the existing bailout, even after a bout of horse-trading, then a game of chicken with Europe ensues. Eurogroup meets again on Thursday and there’s a German/French/Italy/Spain summit on Friday. But G20 leaders gather in Mexico as all this is unfolding, so they will certainly be quorate if some sort of global response is required to any initial market shock. What’s more, the FOMC is meeting Tuesday and Wednesday should Bernanke feel the US needs urgent insulation from the fallout regardless of broader action. But it’s certainly not beyond the bounds of reason that coordinated central bank action materializes next week if markets do indeed go skewways after the Greek poll. They have all clearly been consulting on the issue lately via telephone and bilaterals. And the assumption of more QE is there among investors. Three quarters of the 260+ funds polled by BoAMerrill Lynch this month expect another ECB LTRO by the end of Q3 and almost a half expecting more Fed QE over the same time.
The European Central Bank kept interest rates on hold on Thursday. President Mario Draghi urged euro zone governments to agree a growth strategy to go hand in hand with fiscal discipline, but as thousands of Spaniards protested in the streets he gave no sign the bank would do more to address people’s fears about the economy