Kenya's central bank maintained its Central Bank Rate (CBR) at 8.50 percent to continue anchoring inflation expectations as inflation remains in the upper bound of the bank's medium term target of 5.0 percent despite its recent decline.
However, the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK), which has held its rate steady since May 2013 after cutting it by 250 basis points in the first months of the year, said overall inflation eased to 6.86 percent in February from January's 7.21 percent while non-food, non-fuel inflation (NFNF) had risen slightly to 4.93 percent from 4.83 percent, indicating that its policy stance had supported a stable inflation rate and that private sector credit growth was non-inflationary.
The CBK added that both 1-month and 3-month inflation measures had stabilized in February, "indicating an easing of underlying inflationary pressure."
The central bank targets inflation in a range of 2.5 percentage points around a 5 percent midpoint. Inflation remained within the CBK's range last year apart from September and October when inflation exceeded the upper limit following the imposition of a 16 percent valued-added-tax on some goods.
Kenya's shilling has also been stable in the last month, fluctuating within a narrower range of 86.06 to 86.58 to the U.S. dollar compared with a range of 85.46 to 86.96 in January.
The central bank said its level of foreign reserves had risen to US$ 6.258 billion at the end of February, the equivalent of 4.38 months of imports, from $6.165 billion end December, mainly due to commercial banks selling foreign exchange to the CBK.
It added that Kenya's cumulative current account deficit had improved to 8.09 percent of Gross Domestic Product by December 2013, down from a deficit of 10.45 percent in 2012, while the government's borrowing program for fiscal 2013/14 was consistent with monetary policy objectives. This means the the private sector will not be crowded out, an effect that could jeopardize the expected increase in private investment.
Kenya's banking sector also remains solvent, according to the latest stress tests, with annual growth in private sector credit of 20.47 percent in January, up from 20.08 percent in December, and confidence in the economy remains strong with the central bank's market perception survey from February showing that the private sector expects inflation and the exchange rate to remain stable for the remainder of this year and sustained optimism for strong economic growth in 2014.
The central bank also noted that Fitch Ratings had affirmed Kenya's long-term foreign and local currency rating at B+ and BB-, respectively, with a stable outlook, while activity on the Nairobi stock exchange had been buoyant and diaspora remittances continued to average over $110 million a month between July 2013 and January 2014.
Kenya's GDP expanded by 1.6 percent in the third calendar quarter of 2013 from the second quarter for annual growth of 4.4 percent, up from 4.3 percent in the second quarter.