Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Hungary kicks off rate hike cycle to curb inflation

     Hungary's central bank raised its main interest rate for the first time in a decade, living up to its guidance from last month, and said it would "continue the cycle of interest rate hikes until the outlook for inflation stabilizes around the central bank target and inflation risks become evenly balanced."
     The National Bank of Hungary (NBH) raised its base rate by 30 basis points to 0.90 percent, the first change in its policy interest rate since July 2020 when the rate was cut for the second consecutive month as it loosened monetary conditions to support the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
     The central bank's other main interest rates, such as the overnight deposit rate and the lending rate were left unchanged at minus 0.05 percent and 1.85 percent, respectively. But NBH said an increase in the one-week deposit rate, which is set at weekly tenders, to the base rate's 0.90 percent was warranted.
    "The (monetary) council has launched a cycle of interest rate hikes to ensure price stability, to prevent inflation risks from having long-lasting effects and to anchor inflation expectations," NBH said, adding the exact need for further tightening would be assessed each month.
     In parallel with an increase in interest rates, the central bank is also phasing out some of the monetary tools used during the COVID crises and closing its Funding for Growth Go! scheme. The program was launched in April last year to support financing for small and medium-sized businesses and helped more than 38,000 firms.
      For the time being, NBH will continue its purchases of government securities, saying it considers this be a crucial part of its monetary policy instruments that has been successful in maintaining liquidity in the bond markets and helped improve the effectiveness of policy transmission. 
     It will be flexible in changing the quantity of its weekly bond purchases but added it will continue to use the program "by maintaining a lasting presence in the market."
     Similar to last week's announcement by the Bank of Japan, Hungary's central bank said it would be introducing instruments to support environmental sustainability, with details to follow later.
     Today's rate cut reverses a decade-long monetary easing cycle in Hungary and the central bank is also the 15th central bank to raise rates this year, following in the footsteps of such nations as Russia, Brazil, Turkey, Ukraine, and Iceland that are responding to rising inflationary pressures.
     The last time NBH raised its rate was in December 2011 when the rate was raised to 7.0 percent.
     Six months later, in August 2012, NBH embarked on a four-year easing cycle that ended in May 2016 after the rate had been cut by a total of 6.10 percentage points to 0.90 percent.
      Between May 2016 and June 2020, NBH kept the rate steady, but with economic activity grinding to a halt during the pandemic, NBH's first move was to ensure liquidity in the country's financial markets and then it began purchasing government securities in May 2020.
     The following month, in June, the base rate was then cut 15 basis points and in July a second cut of 15 points followed.
      Apart from a hike to the one-week deposit rate in September last year to prevent a rise in inflationary risks, Hungary's central bank has been focused on ensuring a economic recovery from the pandemic and taking a wait-and-see approach to the bounce back in inflation in recent months.
     But with a successful roll-out of vaccines and a lifting of COVID-restrictions, economic activity in Hungary has bounced back and last month the central bank changed tack, saying it was now ready to tighten monetary conditions to ensure price stability and curb inflationary risks.
     Hungary's inflation rate jumped to 5.1 percent in April from a low of 2.7 percent in January and remained at 5.1 percent in May, the highest since November 2012, and well above the bank's target of 3.0 percent, plus/minus 1 percentage point.
    "Upside risks to the outlook for inflation have generally increased, " the bank said, adding commodity prices have been rising along with freight costs and the rapid recovery in demand will give producers an opportunity to pass on higher costs to consumer prices.
     The central bank expects economic output to recover to pre-COVID levels in the third quarter of this year and while the recovery of industry will be followed by retail, a recovery of the services sector will take longer.
    But the high rate of investment is expected to continue and exports to improve "markedly" this year as external markets recover while household demand picks up.
     The central bank raised its forecast for economic growth this year to 6.2 percent, up from the March forecast of 4-6 percent, and forecast growth of 5.5 percent next year and 3.5 percent in 2023.
     "Global relation and persistent rises in commodity prices as well as potential second-round effects arising during the restart of the economy pose the greatest risks to the outlook for inflation," NBH said.
     The central bank raised its forecast for inflation to average 4.1 percent this year, up from its March forecast of a 3.8-3.9 percent range. After spiking in the second quarter, inflation is expected to ease to around 4 percent during the summer months and then rise again at the end of the year.
     In early 2022 inflation is then expected to decline into the bank's tolerance range and then stabilize around the target from mid-2022.
     Hungary's forint, which was hit by the U.S. dollar's rise after the subtle, but substantial, change in the outlook for the Fed's policy last week, rose immediately.
     The forint jumped 1.2 percent to 352.0 against the euro and is now up 3.6 percent this year. Against the U.S. dollar, the forint jumped 1.4 percent to be up 0.3 percent this year.

         The National Bank of Hungary released the following press release:

"At its meeting on 22 June 2021, the Monetary Council reviewed the latest economic and financial developments and decided on the following structure of central bank interest rates with effect from 23 June 2021:

Central bank instrument

Interest rate

Previous interest rate (percent)

Change (basis points)

New interest rate (percent)

Central bank base rate





O/N deposit rate

Central bank base rate minus 0.95 percentage points


No change


O/N collateralised lending rate

Central bank base rate plus 0.95 percentage points


No change


One-week collateralised lending rate

Central bank base rate plus 0.95 percentage points


No change



The primary objective of the Magyar Nemzeti Bank (MNB) is to achieve and maintain price stability. Without prejudice to its primary objective, the Magyar Nemzeti Bank preserves financial stability and supports the Government’s economic policy, as well as its policy on environmental sustainability under the Bank’s extended mandate effective from 2 August 2021.

In the last months, a growing number of countries have begun to reopen their economies, the pace of which has been strongly influenced by developments in the pandemic and the population’s vaccination level. World trade and global industrial production have already exceeded pre-crisis levels and there has been an improvement in the outlook for services activity. Incoming GDP data for the first quarter of 2021 significantly exceeded earlier expectations across a number of countries and regions.

Risk appetite has still been driven primarily by the events related to the coronavirus pandemic, global supply problems and reflation concerns. Commodity prices have risen sharply since the beginning of the year. Global oil prices have surged above USD 70.

The Federal Reserve’s decision-makers left loose monetary conditions unchanged at their policy meeting in June and reiterated that the asset purchase programmes would be continued at an unchanged pace. In the decision-makers’ view, the rise in inflation has been mainly due to temporary factors, but inflation expectations have also risen in the recent period. The European Central Bank has maintained the amount, raised in the second quarter, of purchases made under the Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme (PEPP) in the third quarter.

However, in the region a number of central banks have indicated recently that they would stand ready to tighten monetary conditions, when necessary due to the increase in the outlook for inflation. The Polish central bank has left its policy rate unchanged since the MNB’s previous interest rate decision.

Hungarian economic growth continued in the third wave of the coronavirus pandemic. Hungary’s GDP grew by 2.0 percent in the first quarter of 2021 relative to the previous quarter, but it was 2.1 percent below the level of a year earlier. Incoming data substantially exceeded expectations. Wage growth remained dynamic despite the pandemic; and the unemployment rate remained low by international standards.

The vaccination coverage rate of Hungary’s population is at the top in the European Union, which provided a good foundation for restarting economic life. As a result of the earlier opening than the European average, the economic recovery is expected to pick up significantly in the second quarter. Real-time data point to double-digit economic growth in the second quarter. Hungarian economic output is expected to recover to pre-Covid levels in the third quarter. The rapid recovery of industry is followed by retail trade, while the recovery of the service sector, which is most exposed to the pandemic, will take longer.

The historically high investment rate is expected to continue rising on the forecast horizon. Hungarian export performance is expected to improve markedly already in 2021 as external markets recover. Driven by the gradual increase in the output of new export capacities built up in previous years, domestic exports are expected to remain an important source of GDP growth over the entire forecast horizon. Household demand is likely to pick up as restrictions are lifted gradually. The MNB has revised up its growth projection, according to which the Hungarian economy grows by 6.2 percent this year, by 5.5 percent in 2022 and by 3.5 percent in 2023.

In May 2021, annual inflation was 5.1 percent, while core inflation stood at 3.4 percent. The consumer price index was unchanged and core inflation rose by 0.3 percentage points relative to the previous month. Inflation was consistent with the MNB’s expectation; however, its structure confirmed that upside risks related to the reopening had appeared. The rapid recovery in demand will provide an opportunity to pass on higher raw material costs to consumer prices since the beginning of the year. Since April, the pace of increase in the prices of services and industrial goods has accelerated. At the same time, underlying measures of inflation also increased.

Inflation is likely to stay mostly above the central bank's tolerance band until end of the year. After the spike in the second quarter, the consumer price index is expected to fall close to 4 percent at a slower-than-expected pace during the summer months before rising slightly again at the end of the year. Annual average inflation is expected to be 4.1 percent in 2021, higher than in the March projection. Due to base effects, inflation is expected to fall back into the central bank's tolerance band again at the beginning of 2022 and to stabilise around the central bank target from mid-2022 as a result of monetary policy measures.

In the Monetary Council’s assessment, it is of key importance to ensure that inflation expectations are properly anchored. Upside risks to the outlook for inflation have generally increased. Inflation in the euro area and the US has risen since the beginning of the year. Sustained rises in commodity prices and international freight costs point to a higher external inflation environment. Demand-supply frictions, re-emerging temporarily due to the rapid restart of the domestic economy, renewed tightening of labour market capacities expected in certain sectors combined with dynamic wage growth have increased inflation risks. Global reflation and persistent rises in commodity prices as well as potential second-round effects arising during the restart of the economy pose the greatest risks to the outlook for inflation.

Following 8.1 percent in 2020, from 2021 the government deficit is expected to decline and, in parallel, the debt-to-GDP ratio to shift to a downward path. The current account surplus and the economy’s net lending are expected to continue rising on the forecast horizon. The decline in the country’s net external debt will continue.

In the Monetary Council’ assessment, in order to ensure price stability, to prevent the lasting effects of inflation risks and to anchor inflation expectations, it is warranted to launch a cycle of interest rate hikes. Accordingly, the Monetary Council increased the central bank base rate by 30 basis points to 0.9 percent. It kept the overnight deposit rate at -0.05 percent and the overnight and one-week collateralised lending rates at 1.85 percent unchanged. The MNB will continue to set the one-week deposit rate at weekly tenders. According to the Monetary Council’s assessment, it is warranted to increase the interest rate on the one-week deposit instrument to the 0.9 percent level of the base rate.

As in previous quarters, the MNB will hold foreign exchange swap tenders providing euro liquidity at the end of June. Through an active market presence, the MNB cushions the spillover of end-of-quarter tensions in international swap markets to the domestic market, thereby contributing to preserving the stability of monetary conditions and through this to maintaining price stability.

In parallel with the tightening of interest rate conditions, the Monetary Council has started to transform the use of instruments having an effect at longer maturities. The pick-up in economic recovery has made it possible for the Bank to phase out certain crisis management tools. Accordingly, with the exhaustion of the HUF 3,000 billion available, the Bank has closed the FGS Go!. However, the MNB intends to introduce instruments supporting environmental sustainability. The Monetary Council will provide information on those instruments in the coming months.

The Monetary Council continues to consider the government securities purchase programme to be crucial in its set of monetary policy instruments, which it judges to be successful during the third wave of the pandemic and in a volatile international financial market environment. Purchases by the Bank have contributed to maintaining a stable liquidity position in the government securities market and improved the effectiveness of monetary policy transmission. The MNB will continue to use the programme by maintaining a lasting presence in the market, taking a flexible approach to changing the quantity and structure of weekly securities purchases, to the extent and for the time necessary.

The Monetary Council is committed to maintaining price stability. The Council has launched a cycle of interest rate hikes to ensure price stability, to prevent inflation risks from having long-lasting effects and to anchor inflation expectations. In the Monetary Council’s assessment, risks to the inflation outlook remain on the upside. In the context of the outlook for inflation and developments in risks, the Monetary Council assesses the need to further tighten monetary conditions in a data-driven manner at its monthly policy meetings. The Monetary Council will continue the cycle of interest rate hikes until the outlook for inflation stabilises around the central bank target and inflation risks become evenly balanced on the horizon of monetary policy.

The abridged minutes of today’s Council meeting will be published at 2 p.m. on 7 July 2021."



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