Markets will be watching for the outcome from the first monetary policy meetings of the year from India, Thailand, the Philippines and New Zealand in a busy week with the Reserve Bank of Australia holding rates at a record low of 1.5 percent on Tuesday as expected.
India Monetary Policy Decision (Wednesday)
The Indian economy has been suffering from the shock of a massive demonetization program, where the government recalled existing 500 ($7.35) and 1,000 ($14.70) rupee notes and replaced them with newly printed notes in a bid to fight counterfeit cash and corruption.
The controversial currency reform impacted 86 percent of India’s currency in circulation, and India is expected to experience sub-7 percent economic growth this year for the first time since 2011.
Against this backdrop, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is expected to cut its official repo rate by 25 basis points on Wednesday, said economists at Moody’s Analytics in a weekly note.
The RBI last kept policy unchanged at a six-year low in December, with the benchmark repo rate at 6.25 percent.
“Inflation is running well below the central bank’s 5 percent target, and short term growth prospects have taken a severe hit on the back of the government’s [demonetization] move,” Moody’s Analytics said, adding that the RBI has room to cut rates further this year.
India’s consumer prices have been increased below 5 percent for the past four months.
Thailand Monetary Policy Decision (Wednesday)
The Bank of Thailand (BOT) is likely to keep monetary policy conditions stable, due to rising inflation and a large fiscal push from the government, according to a Barclays Global Economics Weekly note.
The BOT unanimously kept its benchmark interest rate unchanged at 1.5 percent at its previous meeting, while signalling increasing downside risks to the economy.
Thailand’s economy slowed after the death of the country’s beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej in October. The nation observed a 30-day period of mourning with most entertainment activities shut or toned down, as the public sector announced a year-long period of mourning.
But economic activity rebounded strongly in December, due to a “combination of a large 23 percent rise in public capital expenditure alongside sustained… support from external demand,” said Benjamin Shatil, economist at JPMorgan, in a January report.
New Zealand Monetary Policy Decision (Thursday)
The Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) is largely expected to hold off any changes to its interest rates this Thursday, said the team of economists at Moody’s Analytics.
The central bank has shifted to a neutral bias since it last cut its official cash rate by 25 basis points record low at 1.75 percent in November.
New Zealand is struggling with a frothy property market, even after limiting investor credit did little to cool down housing prices in cities such as Auckland, Moody’s said.
Inflationary pressures are also building for New Zealand as commodity prices recover from the lows of 2015.
The RBNZ Governor Graeme Wheeler also announced Tuesday that he would not seek a second term after his current five-year term ends on Sept. 25. The central bank also announced it will only begin its search for a successor later in the year, while its deputy governor, Grant Spencer will serve a six-month term as acting governor.
The Philippines Monetary Policy Decision (Thursday)
The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) faces deflationary risks and potentially destabilizing capital outflows, but is cut interest rates this Thursday, said Vishnu Varathan, senior economist at Mizuho Bank, in a note.
Varathan said the policy remains accommodative, with the benchmark overnight borrowing rate at 3 percent, and that the Philippines central bank is likely to focus on currency and macro-stability.
The Philippine peso sharply weakened by as a much as 3 percent against the dollar last November, after Donald Trump won the presidential election. The peso has since been trading in a band between 49.2 to 50.