Friday, July 31, 2015

Russia cuts rate 50 bps, GDP may shrink above forecast

    Russia's central bank cut its key policy rate by a 50 basis points to 11.0 percent to reflect that "the balance of risks shifts towards the considerable economy cooling despite a slight increase in inflation risks," and said further rate cuts would depend on the risk of higher inflation compared with the risk of further economic slowdown.
    The Bank of Russia, which has now cut its rate by 600 basis points in 2015 as it continues to roll back last year's 1,150 points of rate increases, still sees inflation decelerating sharply early next year to below 7.0 percent by July due to slack domestic demand and then reaching its target of 4.0 percent by 2017.
    Russia's consumer price inflation rate rose slightly to 15.8 percent as of July 27 from 15.3 percent in June but down from a 2015-high of 16.9 percent in March. The central bank said the rise in July inflation was expected and caused by a greater increase in utility tariffs as compared with 2014.
    But Russia's economy is mired in recession and the central bank said it expects Gross Domestic Product in the second quarter to shrink even more in the second quarter than in the first quarter when it contracted by an annual rate of 2.2 percent.
    On a quarterly basis, first quarter GDP fell by 1.29 percent following declines of 0.55 percent in the fourth quarter and 0.34 percent in the third quarter.
    "Due to a more significant domestic demand shrinkage than expected in the first half of 2015, the output forecast may be revised downwards," the central bank said.
    Last month the Bank of Russia said 2016 GDP could expand by 0.7 percent if oil prices recover to $70 a barrel but if they remain around $60, then the economy could contract by 1.2 percent.
    The ruble fell 45 percent against the U.S. dollar in 2014, hit by the fall in oil prices and Western sanctions over the conflict in Ukraine, before recovering in February this year.
    But since mid-May it has again depreciated to trade at 61 to the U.S. dollar today, practically unchanged since the start of 2015.

    The Bank of Russia released the following statement:

"On 31 July 2015, the Bank of Russia Board of Directors decided to reduce the key rate from 11.50 to 11.00 per cent per annum, taking into account that the balance of risks shifts towards the considerable economy cooling despite a slight increase in inflation risks. According to the Bank of Russia forecast, consumer price growth will continue to slow amid slack domestic demand. Annual inflation will fall below 7% in July 2016 and reach the 4% target in 2017. The Bank of Russia will further decide on its key rate depending on the balance of inflation risks and risks of economy cooling.
Annual inflation temporarily accelerated in July, which was expected and caused by a greater increase in utility tariffs compared with 2014. As of 27 July 2015, annual consumer price growth rate rose to 15.8% from 15.3% in June, according to Bank of Russia estimates. Weekly inflation declined to 0.0 — 0.1% again after a significant increase early this month. Amid a considerable reduction in real income slack consumer demand hampers consumer price growth. 
Relatively tough monetary conditions also contain prices. Money supply (М2) growth rate remains low. Lending and deposit rates show downward trends under the influence of earlier Bank of Russia decisions to reduce the key rate. However, they still remain high, on the one hand, contributing to attractiveness of ruble savings, and, on the other hand, alongside with high debt burden and tighter borrower and collateral requirements, resulting in lower annual lending growth.
Major macroeconomic indicators demonstrate further economy cooling. The Bank of Russia estimates GDP decrease in 2015 Q2 compared with the similar quarter last year to be more significant than that in Q1 2015. Though structural factors continue hampering the economic growth, output contraction is having cyclical nature. Low consumer and business confidence as well as decreased capacity and labour force utilisation are indicative of this. However, unemployment remains low amid the negative demographic trends, while the labour market adjusts to the new conditions largely through wage decrease and growing part-time employment. These factors along with the decline in retail lending will result in further contraction of consumer spending. Fixed capital investments will continue to contract due to economic agents’ negative expectations with regard to the Russian economic outlook and tighter lending conditions. Poor substitution of external funding sources with domestic ones caused by shallow Russian financial market and high debt burden will also contain investment demand. Implementation of government anti-recession measures will facilitate investments. Sluggish investor and consumer activity will result in low demand for imports. Export decline will be less considerable given the floating exchange rate. As a result, net exports will be the only component to make a positive contribution to annual output growth. Due to a more significant domestic demand shrank than that expected in the first half of 2015, the output forecast may be revised downwards. 
The economic situation in Russia will further depend on the dynamics of world energy prices and the economy’s ability to adapt to external shocks. At the same time the scenario with oil prices remaining below US$60 per barrel for a long time is more probable than it was in June.
Slack domestic demand will facilitate the continuation of annual inflation reduction in years 2015-2017. A slowdown in consumer price growth will make room for inflation expectations decrease. In early 2016, annual inflation is expected to decelerate considerably due to high base of 2015. According to Bank of Russia forecasts, in July 2016, annual consumer price growth will stand at below 7% to reach the 4% target in 2017.
Inflation risks arise mostly from aggravated external economic situation, enhanced inflation expectations, revision of increases in administered prices and tariffs, of payments indexation for 2016-2017, and fiscal policy easing in general. The Bank of Russia will further decide on its key rate depending on the balance of inflation risks and risks of economy cooling.
The next meeting of the Bank of Russia Board of Directors on the key rate is scheduled for 11 September 2015. The press release on the Bank of Russia Board of Directors’ decision is to be published at 13:30, Moscow time."


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