Russian CB says lending rate cut in sight but warns against haste

By bne IntelliNews November 16, 2015

Russia's key lending rate may be cut at one of the next three rate meetings, Central Bank of Russia (CBR) governor Elvira Nabiullina says, while warning of the risks of easing monetary policy too quickly.

"It is important for us to conduct such a policy that would finally lead to reduction of interest rates on all loans," TASS news agency quoted Nabiullina as saying on November 13. "We should not only expand financing with regard to reduced rates set for certain borrowers which only slows down and narrows opportunities for reduction of rates on all credits."

The CBR chief also said restricting access to foreign borrowing market for Russian banks is leading to a reduction of currency funds by $200bn annually. "The decline of oil prices together with restriction of the access of Russian banks to foreign borrowings leads to reduction of currency funds. According to our estimate, the flow of funds decreases by about $200bn in annual terms," Nabiullina said.

Alfa bank analysts took the governor's words on the rate to be an effort to "smooth the central bank's extremely dovish statement published on October 31, which read like a definitive guidance for a rate cut at the next policy meeting", which is scheduled for December 11.

"From the start, that looked to us as though it would be a controversial course of action, with Fed policy rate decision expected on December 16," Alfa chief analyst Natalia Orlova wrote in a note to clients. "As the recently published strong payroll statistics in the US increased the likelihood of a Fed rate hike, the external environment works against CBR action."

Internal data also cautions against a rate cut, Orlova noted: GDP contraction in the third quarter was only 4.1% y/y, better than expected, while inflation figures might surprise negatively in coming weeks because of the introduction of a freight truck levy, expected to come effective November 15.

"We share the CBR view, expressed by Ms. Nabiullina, that a cut that might have to be reversed in the near future is not a viable policy option," Orlova wrote. "Precisely for this reason, we maintain our view that the CBR policy rate will remain unchanged on December 11. We believe that a window of opportunity for a cut is unlikely to emerge before 1Q16."

Regarding inflation levels, Nabiullina said the rise in consumer prices in Russia this year will be at 12-13% but will start to decelerate sharply because of the base effect. At the start of 2016, the CBR expects a significant reduction in annual inflation, decreasing to 5.5-6.5%.

"According to our forecast, inflation will continue to decline quite rapidly in the next year, moderately tight monetary policy, restrained and low demand will contribute to it," the governor said.

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