Ukraine central bank keeps key rate unchanged at 18%

Ukraine central bank keeps key rate unchanged at 18%
Ukraine's NBU kept rates on hold at 18% as inflation begins to fall
By bne IntelliNews March 14, 2019

The the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) has keept its key policy rate at 18% per annum after "balancing the need to bring inflation back to its target against the risks that could prevent inflation from decreasing", the regulator said in a statement on March 14.

The tight monetary conditions continue to be an important prerequisite for gradually reducing inflation to the 5% target in 2020, according to the central bank.

Inflation continued to decelerate in the early months of 2019, effectively staying on the trajectory the NBU predicted in its January's inflation report. By late February, inflation had declined to 8.8% year-on-year, with core inflation down to 7.8% y/y, signifying that the underlying inflationary pressure is easing off as anticipated.

"The NBU’s tight monetary policy contributed to the lower inflation, including by being one of the reasons for the strengthening of the hryvnia," the NBU added. "The stronger hryvnia affected the prices of imported goods and goods that have a substantial import content, which along with other factors brought core inflation down.In addition, the consistency of the monetary policy, which aims to tackle inflation, and the FX market conditions contributed to the gradual improvement of inflation expectations."

This raises interest rates in real terms and thus ensures tight monetary conditions necessary to reduce inflation, according to the regulator.

In January, the NBU projected that inflation will decelerate to 6.3% in 2019 and return to the target range of 5% ± 1 percentage point (pp) early next year. "The January forecast still holds although new factors emerged since the NBU board last met to discuss monetary policy," the regulator added.

On the one hand, increases in social payments, as well as the monetisation of utility subsidies are planned for the coming months. "Although the effects of these individual factors are insignificant, their combined impact on inflation expectations could be substantial, on the back of greater uncertainty arising from the presidential and parliamentary elections," the NBU's statement reads.

At the same time, "a more noticeable" strengthening in the hryvnia exchange rate than is envisaged in the current forecast, is helping curb inflation. "The risk that inflation may not decrease mentioned by the NBU in its January macroeconomic forecast continues to persist," the NBU believes.

Leaving the key policy rate unchanged, the NBU board said that it could cut it in the future,. "How soon the NBU will adopt an easing cycle will depend on how steadily risks of inflation decrease and inflation expectations improve," the regulator said. "Looking ahead, any changes to the key policy rate will be based on the NBU’s updated macroeconomic forecast that will be published in April."