Rampant inflation to keep Russian central bank tight

January 30, 2015

Russian roubles are seen in this illustration picture taken in Moscow

Russia’s central bank meets having shoved interest rates up to an eye-watering 17 percent late last year.
The central bank has said rates can only come down if inflation was trending lower. It was running above 11 percent last month and the government expects it to peak at 17 percent.

Rampant inflation leads economists polled by Reuters to expect no move today. The poll also predicted that the economy will shrink by 4.2 percent in 2015.

European Union foreign ministers extended existing sanctions against Russia on Thursday, holding off on tighter measures for now but winning the support of the new government of Greece, whose position had been in doubt.

Alexis Tsipras, who took power in Athens on Monday, complained that he had not been consulted before tighter sanctions were threatened but his foreign minister, Nikos Kotzias, dispelled suggestions that Greece would break ranks, declaring he was no “Russian puppet”.

Further measures are likely in March including capital markets restrictions making it harder for Russian companies to refinance themselves and possibly targeting Russian sovereign bonds.

Ordinary Russians are really starting to feel this. Official data this week showed real wages slumped by 4.7 percent year-on-year in December, with real income falling by 7.3 percent. But Vladimir Putin’s poll ratings remain high and there is no sign of him changing tack over Ukraine in response to this economic pressure.

Britain scrambled fighters after Russia flew long-range bombers near its air space, disrupting civilian aviation. It summoned the Russian ambassador for an explanation. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg holds his first monthly news conference with Ukraine likely to dominate.

French President Francois Hollande meets Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz at the Elysee Palace for a regular Franco-Polish summit.

This evening, Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Parliament chief Martin Schulz have a dinner meeting at the European Parliament in Strasbourg with topics expected to range from Greece to Ukraine/Russia and the European Commission’s investment plan.

There is talk of a Franco-German plan whereby the former will accelerate the pace of economic reform with Berlin agreeing to spend a bit more to stimulate demand. French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday France and Germany must work more closely to boost growth in Europe, warning of the twin risk of Germany’s budget “fetishism” and French inertia.
The head of the European finance ministers’ group, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, is in Athens to meet Greek

ministers. On Thursday he said he feared the new Syriza-led government could derail reforms and economic recovery if it keeps to its campaign promises.

Euro zone inflation figures for January are likely to show price pressures dropping further into negative territory due to the oil factor. The forecast is for the rate to fall to -0.5 percent from -0.2 showing why the European Central Bank surprised on the upside last week with a QE programme that should pump more than a trillion euros into the euro zone economy over the next 18 months.

We also get fourth quarter GDP readings from Spain and Austria. Healthy quarterly growth of 0.6 percent is forecast for the former. Data on Thursday showed retail sales leapt 6.5 percent year-on-year in December, the biggest increase since 2003.

Inflation numbers will also be released and are expected to show prices falling 1.5 percent year-on-year. The sales data suggest Spain is benefitting from the “good deflation” scenario where greater discretionary income due to cheap energy boosts consumption. With a weaker euro helping exports, a turning point may have been reached.

Madrid forced some very tough medicine on its people, which appears finally to be bearing fruit. That means it is likely to be no fan of giving Greece a dramatically different deal on debt/austerity.

Romania’s central bank holds a news conference – a rarity except on monetary policy or inflation report days – after recommending a range of measures to help people who have borrowed heavily in Swiss francs.

British consumer morale jumped in January by more than expected to hit its highest level since August, a survey released overnight by polling company GfK showed.

No comments so far

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/