israel

Israel has raised its key interest rate for April by half of one per cent – the largest rate rise since before the financial crisis. Bank of Israel was one of the first central banks to begin raising rates, starting in September 2009 with a quarter point rise from a record low of 0.5 per cent. Since then, there have been eight quarter-point rises, but this is the first half-point rise. In April, the Bank’s rate will be 3 per cent.

The move is an attempt to slow the economy and housing market, and rein in inflation. Israel’s economy is expanding, “converging towards a situation of full utilization of the factors of production”. The stats would send most Western central bankers green with envy. Last year, the economy grew by 4.6 per cent, rising to an annualised rate of 7.7 per cent in the last quarter. Unemployment is about 6.6 per cent and improving. But there is concern over inflation and housing. Consumer prices are rising 4.2 per cent annually, against a target of 1-3 per cent. Even stripping out house prices, inflation is 3.5 per cent annually. And there is evidence that inflation expectations and real wages are beginning to rise, too. Meanwhile the housing market continues to boom, with prices rising 16.3 per cent in the year to February and no decline evident in the appetite for new mortgages. Read more

Fighting currency appreciation is an expensive business. It cost the Swiss SFr 21bn ($23bn) before they gave up and let the franc rise. New figures out from the Bank of Israel show it cost them NIS 17.6bn ($4.8bn). The Bank’s overall loss was NIS 17.9, of which 98 per cent can be attributed to exchange rate moves.

Israel’s foreign exchange stockpile has been growing – but the governor says these reserves might prove useful if there is a reversal of capital flows. Israel has been raising rates to contain inflation and dampen the too-buoyant housing market. The governor has called for international rules on foreign exchange markets and capital flows, just as exist currently for trade.

The Bank of Israel has raised its March interest rate by a quarter of one per cent, prompted by higher than expected inflation, strong economic activity and continued fears about an overheating housing market.

Israel’s central bank also said “the expected timing of an increase in the Fed interest rate has been brought forward”. Read more

There are international rules to govern global trade, but none to oversee foreign exchange markets or capital movements, Israel’s central bank governor has observed.

Stanley Fischer said standards for capital movements were needed, even though it was not possible to govern how much central banks could intervene in markets. Reuters news wire reports: “It is important that the IMF is now trying to develop such rules, to figure out what works and what doesn’t work when the exchange rate starts to appreciate and … what measures they can take that are acceptable from the viewpoint of managing the international economy,” he told a conference. “Those are rules we have to develop just as we developed rules gradually in the years since the 1950s that produced a global trading system,” he added.

Many countries grappling with “hot money” blame the US openly and directly, but Professor Fischer did not join them. “I believe the US is doing what needs to be done for growth. Read more

Israeli foreign currency reserves rose to $73.4bn by the end of January as the country’s central bank bought foreign currency to dampen the shekel. The Bank bought $2.09bn and benefitted from an upward revaluation of its reserves by $628m, reports Bloomberg news wire.

Since the start of the year, the shekel weakened against the dollar, from 3.51421 to 3.712 per dollar, which explains the upward revision. Last time there was a net weakening in the currency over the month, it was followed by a net reserve reduction the month after (October-November last year). By that logic we could expect Israel’s foreign exchange purchases to fall during February. Read more

Israel’s foreign currency reserves stood at $70.9bn at the end of December, according to Bloomberg – but they may well be needed.

Central bank governor Stanley Fischer has warned that capital inflows could reverse sharply, leading the Bank to sell its reserves to try to slow any sudden weakening of the shekel. “One of the things that does concern us is that we have a lot of money coming in,” Mr Fischer told Bloomberg Radio in Davos. “If opinions change quickly money goes right back out and it could go out very fast.” Read more

Stanley Fischer’s mantelpiece must be full. He’s just won another central banker award, this time Central Bank Governor of the Year from euromoney magazine, which has been running the award for 30 years.

Just yesterday, Sunday, he was awarded best Middle East central bank governor from magazine Emerging Markets. Last month, he was one of only seven central bankers to be awarded an ‘A’ grade by Global Finance magazineRead more

Rising inflation expectations, and ‘steeply’ increasing house prices have encouraged the Bank of Israel to raise its policy rate, continuing a programme of rate normalisation. October’s interest rate – not shown on the chart as we are still in September – will be 2 per cent.

Inflation expectations calculated from the capital market for one year ahead and those of the private forecasters remain in the area of the upper limit of the target inflation range, with the interest rate expected to rise to about 2.7 percent in a year’s time.

Low interest rates are also encouraging housing loans: Read more

Israel’s central bank will raise August’s key interest rate 25bp to 1.75 per cent. The raise, not yet shown on the chart which is accurate to today, will be the fifth 25bp increase since the bank started raising in 2009.

Rising inflation expectations are motivating the move: Read more

As part of normalisation of interest rates, the central bank of Israel has raised the benchmark interest rate to 1.5 per cent. The Bank stressed that even with the rise, monetary policy remains expansionary. Annual inflation, at 3.6 per cent, is currently above the target range of 1 – 3 per cent. The rise was:

Intended to return inflation to within the target range and to keep it there, and to contribute to the further recovery of economic activity, while supporting financial stability. The path of the interest rate will be determined in accordance with the inflation environment, the entrenchment of growth, in Israel and globally, the rate at which the major central banks increase their interest rates, and in light of developments in the exchange rates of the shekel. Read more