Monday, April 10, 2017

Kazakhstan holds rate as inflation now seen in range

    Kazakhstan's central bank left its base rate at 11.0 percent, citing inflation within the target range, growing business activity and stable domestic financial markets.
     The National Bank of Kazakhstan last cut its rate by 100 basis points in February as part of an easing cycle that has seen rates cut by a total of 600 points since May 2016.
     Kazakhstan's inflation rate eased further to 7.7 percent in March for the eight consecutive month of decelerating inflation since hitting 17.7 percent in July last year.
     Inflation is within the central bank's target range of 6 - 8 percent and the latest survey shows that inflation expectations have stabilized below the current inflation rate but within the target range.
      The central bank's inflation forecast from February also shows that inflation is expected to remain within the target range this year and decline to 6.5 - 7.0 percent by the end of this year and enter into the 2018 target range of 5 - 7 percent.
      Food inflation remains high, the bank said, but an appreciation of the tenge's exchange rate on higher-than-expected oil prices and a strong Russian ruble has pushed down inflation. Oil accounts for about 60 percent of Kazakhstan's exports and over 10 percent of its Gross Domestic Product. 
     The exchange rate of Kazakhstan's tenge has been steadily appreciating since January 2016 and was trading at 312.1 to the U.S. dollar today, up almost 7 percent this year.
     The tenge fell sharply in August 2015 after the central bank moved to a floating exchange rate in response to capital outflows and the conversion of many tenge bank deposits to foreign currency.
      But expectations of tenge depreciation have continued to decline and 22 percent of respondents in a recent survey now expect the tenge to rise while the percentage of people who expect it to depreciate fell for the third consecutive month to 35 percent.
     In addition, preliminary estimates show the share of bank deposits in foreign currency and tenge were practically even, with foreign currency deposits now at 50.7 percent.
     As expected by the national bank, business activity is improving, with consumer demand picking up, reinforced by an annual 5.6 percent rise in nominal wages in January-February.
     In February the central bank forecast 2.2 percent economic growth this year and 4.7 percent in the first nine months 2018, helped by growing domestic consumption, fixed asset investments and higher output of mineral resources.
     The output gap, however, is expected to remain negative until the third quarter of 2017, with real GDP slightly above potential from the fourth quarter of this year, indicating some inflationary pressures.
     Kazakhstan's economy grew by 1 percent in 2016, down from 1.2 percent in 2015, due to weak oil and metal prices.



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