Singapore’s central bank reduces slope of currency band to zero

The Monetary Authority of Singapore adjusts monetary policy for the country through currency control, not via interest rates.

MAS says it will adopt a zero percent per annum rate of appreciation of the policy band starting at the prevailing level of the SGD NEER

  • there will be no change to the width of the policy band.
  • Says this policy decision hence affirms the present level of the S$NEER, as well as the width and zero percent appreciation slope of the policy band going forward
  • core inflation is likely to remain below its historical average in the near and medium term
  • Says MAS’ money market operations will at the same time provide sufficient liquidity to the financial system
  • will continue to be vigilant over developments in the economy and financial markets, and stands ready to curb excessive volatility in the SGD NEER
  • says both MAS core inflation and CPI -all items inflation are expected to average between −1 and 0% in 2020
  • says external sources of inflation are likely to weaken in the near term amid the global downturn
  • resident unemployment rate is expected to rise and wage growth ease
more to come

Markets and the Pathogen in the Week Ahead

The infectious and mortality rates of the new coronavirus have become the main force driving the pendulum of investor sentiment toward fear. The move is all the more dramatic as the investors had been positioned for a continuation of the historic bull market in equities and eager to take on new risks.

The coronavirus has surpassed the earlier precedents of SARS (2003) and the Swine Flu (2009). The World Health Organization declared an international health emergency, which will free up resources and boost efforts to contain the pathogen. It took roughly 20 months to devise a vaccine for SARS, and it is estimated that a vaccine is possible within a month or so now to begin the testing process. Although China is expected to return from the extended Lunar New Year on February 2, more than a dozen provinces and cities will be closed several days longer, which ballpark estimates suggest are responsible for a little more than 2/3 of GDP and 3/4 of exports. Supply-chain and business disruptions will likely last longer still.

Investors fear that the health crisis will turn into an economic crisis. Although President Xi is understood to be the strongest Chinese leader in a generation, the challenges that China faces are immense: US rivalry and trade conflict, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and a highly leveraged domestic economy underpinned by a deteriorating demographics. China recently reported its birthrate fell to a record last year. Still, some argue that the situation is even more dire as the official figures exaggerate both the population and the birth rate. More monetary and fiscal stimulus is expected to be delivered to cushion the impact. Some forecasts show the Chinese economy slowing to around 4.5% in Q1 20 from 6.0% in Q4 19.

Since the onshore yuan (CNY) stopped trading for the holiday, the dollar appreciated by a net of a little less than 1% against the offshore yuan (CNH). A catch-up move of roughly the same magnitude would bring the greenback toward CNY7.0. While the last time the dollar rose through that threshold, the US accused China of currency manipulation, this time is considerably different. Moreover, of all times, this is the time when China could likely get away with manipulation if it wanted. It is not just because of the macro shock, but also because the US has played the card once and relatively quickly reversed itself. (more…)

BOJ announce no change to monetary policy settings, as expected

Bank of Japan monetary policy meeting for January 2020 has concluded

As expected, policy unchanged:
  • keeps monetary policy steady
  • maintains short-term interest rate target at -0.1%
  • maintains 10-year JGB yield target around 0%
  • maintains forward guidance on interest rates, says they will remain at current or lower levels for as long as needed to guard against risk momentum for hitting price goal may be lost
I’ll have more on this separately

BOJ minutes: Downside risks to overseas economies remained signficant

Minutes of the Bank of Japan October 2019 monetary policy meeting.

  • most members shared view that there had been no further increase in the possibility that the momentum toward achieving the price stability target would be lost
  • most members shared view downside risks to overseas economies remained significant, must continue to pay close attention to chance inflation momentum would be lost
  • one member said given downside risks, BOJ should continue to examine whether additional monetary easing would be necessary
  • some members said BOJ must not hesitate to take additional easing measures if there was a greater possibility momentum toward achieving the price target would be lost
  •  important to enhance cooperation with government on economic policies

Headlines via Reuters

Singapore loosens monetary policy for first time in 3.5 years

Singapore has moved to loosen its monetary policy for the first time in three-and-a-half years to help offset slowing economic momentum due to prolonged U.S.-China trade tensions.

As a small, heavily trade-dependent economy, the country has been heavily exposed to the tariff battle between two of its largest trading partners. Exports have been falling at a double-digit pace from last year’s levels.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore, the central bank, said in its semiannual policy statement Monday that it would slightly decrease the slope of the Singapore dollar’s exchange policy band, a move to guide a weaker appreciation of the local currency.

The nation’s monetary policy is based on its exchange rate whereby the Singapore dollar is managed against a basket of currencies representing the country’s major trading partners.

With this move, Singapore follows regional peers such as Indonesia, the Philippines and India, all of which have eased monetary policy by cutting interest rates in recent months.

Singapore’s adjustment comes as trade-related industries stagnate under pressure from the U.S.-China standoff, though economists say domestically focused sectors have held up better. (more…)

RBA cuts cash rate by 25 bps from 1.25% to 1.00%

RBA announces its latest monetary policy decision – 2 July 2019

  • Prior 1.25%
  • Says rate cut will help to make inroads into spare capacity
  • Says rate cut will help achieve progress towards inflation target
  • Says rate cut is to support jobs, bring inflation back in-line with target
  • Says rate cut will help quicken reduction in unemployment
  • Notes that inflation pressures are subdued across the economy
  • Sees underlying inflation at 2% in 2020
  • But expects inflation to pick up, boosted by petrol prices in Q2
  • To adjust policy if needed to support growth, inflation
  • Central scenario for Australian economy remains reasonable
  • Tentative signs of house prices stabilising in Sydney, Melbourne
  • AUD at the lower end of narrow range
More details to come…
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