Asia

Rate normalisation continues in the Philippines, despite the Japanese earthquake. Key rates have been increased by a quarter of one per cent, with the overnight lending (repo) and borrowing (reverse repo) rates standing at 6.5 and 4.5 per cent, respectively. Manila started raising rates only recently: the last rate rise – a quarter point in March – was the first since 2008.

“In deciding to increase policy rates anew, the Monetary Board noted that the latest baseline inflation forecasts continue to suggest that the 3-5 percent inflation target for 2011 remains at risk, mainly as a result of expected pressures from oil prices,” said the Bank. Annual inflation in the year to April edged up to 4.5 per cent, within the government target but at the upper end.

With inflation reaching 17.5 per cent in the year to April, Vietnam’s central bank has again raised interest rates: one lending rate, the reverse repo rate, was raised today by a percentage point to stand at 14 per cent.

Two other rates, the refinancing and discount rates, were both raised by a percentage point on Friday, to stand at 14 and 13 per cent, respectively. Vietnamese authorities have raised several rates multiple times since the start of the year, which have also seen substantial devaluations of the country’s currency, the dong. Read more >>

India’s central bank has upped its campaign against inflation, raising rates by half a percentage point, twice previous rate rises. This is the first half point rate rise since 2008 (see chart).

The move comes despite “signs of moderating growth” in the economy, which shows how worried the Bank is about inflation. Strong consumer demand in the country has aggravated the global issue of rising commodity prices, adding to domestic inflationary pressures. That strong demand, in turn, has probably been encouraged by relatively low rates. Indeed, according to the Bank:

…demand has been strong enough to allow significant pass-through of input price increases.  Importantly, this is happening even as there are visible signs of moderating growth, particularly in capital goods production and investment spending, suggesting that cumulative monetary actions are beginning to have an impact on demand [emphasis ours]

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The Singapore dollar jumped to a record level against the US dollar on Thursday after the island state tightened monetary policy for the second time in six months to combat rising inflation. Economists said the move was likely to be followed by a round of interest rate rises across Asia as governments sought to curb inflation generated by rapid economic growth in the region and loose monetary policy in the west.

Singapore, which conducts its monetary policy through changes to the exchange rate, rather than through interest rates, said it was responding to faster than expected economic growth and a fall in commercial interest rates triggered by abundant global liquidity. The Monetary Authority of Singapore, the country’s central bank, said it had shifted its exchange rate policy band upwards to below the prevailing level of the Singapore dollar’s nominal effective exchange rate. Read more >>

To discourage volatile short-term capital flows, the Bank of Indonesia will extend the minimum holding period of its bank certificates, SBIs, from one month to six months, effective May 13. This means traders holding the notes will not be able to sell them in the secondary market until they have held them for six months.

The unexpected news builds upon previous measures aimed at slowing down investment in very short-term debt. For example, the Bank of Indonesia has already all but stopped issuing 3- and 6-month SBIs. A key risk for countries receiving increased capital inflows is that they might reverse, which could have sudden and unpredictable consequences, as the Bank of Japan has pointed out. The Bank of Israel’s Stanley Fischer has made the same argumentRead more >>

Reading the commentary, one would think the Bank of Korea had raised rates, but in fact they held, as expected.

Inflation was 4.7 per cent in the year to March, against the Bank’s target of 4 per cent, “due mostly to the rises in prices of petroleum products and personal services.” More than this, swift price rises are set to continue and inflation expectations are growing. The Bank said: “There is a growing possibility of this high rising price trend persisting in the coming months, driven largely by increased demand pressures from the economic upswing, by instability of international commodity prices, and by elevated inflation expectations.”

Typically, high and rising inflation would prompt a rate hike. Particularly since strong growth continues, and is expected to continue. “The committee Read more >>

Banks in the quake-affected north-east of Japan will soon be able to borrow longer term from a new scheme worth ¥1,000bn ($11.7bn), offering one-year loans at 0.1 per cent.

The scheme comes on top of ¥21,800bn ($265bn) liquidity made available immediately after the quake and a doubling of the Bank’s asset purchase programme from ¥5,000bn to ¥10,000bn ($121bn). Tokyo has also been involved in an internationally co-ordinated effort to prevent the yen appreciating too sharply. So far, though, the BoJ remains unwilling to buy government bonds, a measure adopted in several other countries since the crisis.

In addition to such measures, at today’s meeting, the Bank judged it necessary to introduce a funds-supplying operation that provides financial institutions in disaster areas with longer-term funds in order to support their initial response efforts to meet the future demand for funds for restoration and rebuilding.

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For the fourth time in less than six months, China has raised rates. The quarter point increase leaves the one-year  deposit rate at 3.25 per cent and the one-year lending rate at 6.31 per cent, each a percentage point higher than October of last year. Inflation rose to 4.9 per cent in the year to February, driven higher by food price inflation.

Other tightening measures are being gradually but regularly applied, notably the reserve requirement, which has been raised seven times since October and now stands at 20 per cent for large banks, following the most recent increase in mid-MarchRead more >>

The State Bank of Vietnam has raised two key rates by a full percentage point – a significant increase but still a slower pace than very large rate raises in February and March. The most recent move affects the refinancing and repurchase rates, taking both to 13 per cent.

The move comes less than a month after a five percentage point increase in the discount rate. In February, when the central bank added to inflationary pressure with a 9.3 per cent devaluation of the dong. Since then, the central bank has raised the refinancing rate by 2 percentage points and raised the reverse repo rate by a percentage point. Read more >>

Taiwan has raised rates 12.5 basis points, or an eighth of one per cent, sticking to its plan to normalise rates. The move was widely expected.

Consumer prices rose sharply between January and February – the first substantial increase since October last year. Since then prices have mostly fallen or been static. The less volatile annual rate is more modest, showing a 1.33 per cent gain on the year. The CBC forecasts inflation of 2 per cent for the year. Read more >>