Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Hungary holds rate, sees easy policy for extended period

    Hungary's central bank maintained its base rate at 2.10 percent, as widely expected, and confirmed its guidance that it expects to maintain loose monetary conditions "for an extended period" to achieve its medium-term inflation target.
    The National Bank of Hungary (MNB), which wrapped up a two-year easing cycle in July after cutting the base rate by 490 basis points, also said inflationary pressures were likely to remain moderate in the medium term with disinflationary pressures slowly weakening as economic activity gathers pace even as external demand has weakened slightly.
    There is still a degree on unused capacity in the economy but the negative output gap is expected to close gradually in the next few years and inflation is likely to be around 3 percent, consistent with price stability, in the second half of the forecast period, the central bank said.
    Headline inflation in Hungary fell to minus 0.5 percent in September from 0.2 percent in August while core inflation eased to 1.4 percent from 2.4 percent.

    The MNB issued the following statement:
"At its meeting on 28 October 2014, the Monetary Council reviewed the latest economic and financial developments and voted to leave the central bank base rate unchanged at 2.10%.

In the Council’s judgement, Hungarian economic growth is likely to continue. While the pace of economic activity is strengthening, output remains below potential and the domestic real economy is expected to continue to have a disinflationary impact, albeit to a diminishing extent. Despite the pick-up in the components of domestic demand, capacity utilisation is expected to improve only gradually due to the protracted recovery in Hungary’s export markets. With employment rising, the unemployment rate continues to exceed its long-term level determined by structural factors. Inflationary pressures in the economy are likely to remain moderate for an extended period.

Based on the inflation data for September, consumer prices continue to show historically low dynamics. In addition to one-off inflation-reducing effects, the Bank’s measures of underlying inflation capturing the medium-term outlook still indicate moderate inflationary pressures in the economy, reflecting low inflation in external markets, favourable developments in commodity prices and imported inflation, the degree of unused capacity in the economy, subdued wage dynamics, the fall in inflation expectations and the reductions in administered energy prices implemented in a series of steps. Domestic real economic and labour market factors continue to have a disinflationary impact and low inflation is likely to persist for a sustained period. However, domestic demand-side disinflationary pressures are weakening gradually as activity gathers pace, and inflation is likely to reach levels around 3 per cent consistent with price stability in the second half of the forecast period.

In the Council’s judgement, economic growth is likely to continue even as external demand has weakened slightly. The decline in industrial production and foreign trade in August may have partly reflected one-off effects. The growth rate of retail sales picked up further in August. In the Council’s judgement, economic growth may continue in a more balanced pattern than previously, with the recovery in domestic demand likely to make a greater contribution. The increasing use of EU funding and the easing in credit constraints also due to the Bank’s Funding for Growth Scheme are expected to sustain the recovery in investment. Household consumption is likely to grow gradually, mainly as a result of the expected increase in the real value of disposable income and the reduced need for deleveraging. However, propensity to save is expected to remain above levels seen prior to the crisis. Based on labour market data for August, the number of employees, including those employed under public employment programmes, was stagnant and the unemployment rate fell.

International investor sentiment mostly deteriorated in the past month, mainly reflecting the escalation of geopolitical conflicts and the weak outlook for activity. The majority of domestic risk measures were broadly unchanged. Hungary’s persistently high external financing capacity and the resulting decline in external debt have contributed to the reduction in its vulnerability. In the Council’s judgement, a cautious approach to policy is warranted due to uncertainty about future developments in the global financial environment.

In the Council’s judgement, there remains a degree of unused capacity in the economy and inflationary pressures are likely to remain moderate in the medium term. The negative output gap is expected to close gradually at the monetary policy horizon. Looking ahead, therefore, the disinflationary impact of the real economy is likely to diminish and, with current monetary conditions maintained, inflation is likely to move into line with the target over the medium term. The Council judges that, based on available information, the current level of the central bank base rate is consistent with the medium-term achievement of price stability and a corresponding degree of support to the real economy. If the assumptions underlying the Bank’s projections hold, achieving the medium-term inflation target points in the direction of maintaining current loose monetary conditions for an extended period.

The abridged minutes of today’s Council meeting will be published at 2 p.m. on 12 November 2014."



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