By Md Manzer Hussain
BENGALURU, Dec 14 (Reuters) – The Philippine central bank is likely to wait until the end of next year before raising interest rates to support an economy still recovering from the ravages of pandemic-induced lockdowns, a Reuters poll of economists showed.
An uneven economic recovery and cooling inflation should provide the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) the impetus to maintain the status quo on interest rates.
All 22 economists in the Dec. 7-13 survey said the central bank would keep its benchmark interest rate PHCBIR=ECI at a record low 2.0% at its Dec. 16 meeting and medians suggested the first rise would not come until the fourth quarter of next year.
It was forecast to add 25 basis points in Q4 2022 and Q1 2023, taking the benchmark rate to 2.5%. In a poll last month, the first increase was penciled in for early 2023.
“I see the BSP sticking to their guns. The fact they are continuing to lend to the National Government within the New Central Bank Act shows the economic recovery is still far from entrenched,” said Ruben Carlo O. Asuncion, chief economist at Union Bank of the Philippines.
“If signs are clear, then and only then, the BSP will move.”
The economy, one of the fastest-growing in Asia before the coronavirus hit, expanded 7.1% year-over-year in the July-Sept quarter, slower than the 12% expansion in the previous one.
But easing of restrictions is likely to help growth reach the government’s target of 4-5% for this year, far from its pre-pandemic levels.
Last Tuesday, the World Bank raised its 2021 growth forecast for the country’s economy to 5.3% from 4.3% forecast in September. It expected the economy to expand 5.9% next year and 5.7% in 2023.
But it also warned about the risks posed by a new wave of infections.
Inflation dropped to 4.2% in November from 4.6% in October. While that was a touch above the BSP’s target band of 2-4%, the bank considered it a “manageable inflation environment” and expected price rises to settle close to the midpoint of the target range in 2022 and 2023.
“Despite the upside surprise to both November inflation and Q3 growth, the BSP rhetoric is clearly in favor of extending policy support for just a bit longer”, said Nicholas Mapa, senior economist at ING.
But the central bank will be closely watching any moves by the U.S. Federal Reserve and will not want to be too far from its first interest rate hike, expected in the third quarter of 2022 and possibly sooner.ECILT/US
“Any hike in the local (BSP) policy rate would likely follow any Fed rate hikes, which are also followed by many other central banks around the world to maintain healthy interest rate differentials,” said Michael Ricafort, economist at Rizal Commercial Banking Corp
(Reporting by Md Manzer Hussain; Polling by Shaloo Shrivastava, Devayani Sathyan and Tushar Goenka)
This article originally appeared on reuters.com