The Russian central bank is expected to cut its key interest rate by 200 basis points to 15% on Friday as it tries to stimulate more lending in the economy in the face of high inflation, a Reuters poll suggested on Monday.
Russia faces soaring inflation and capital flight while grappling with a possible debt default after the West imposed unprecedented sanctions to punish President Vladimir Putin for sending tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24.
The bank hiked rates to 20% from 9.5% in late February in an emergency move that Governor Elvira Nabiullina said helped stabilize the ruble and overcome an inflation spike. The bank then cut the interest rate to 17% on April 8.
Thirty-one of 32 analysts and economists polled by Reuters predicted that Russia will cut the key rate by 200 basis points to 15% on Friday.
“A whole range of Bank of Russia representatives have signaled the high likelihood of a key rate cut to support the economy,” said VTB Capital. “We expect a rate cut to 15%, but allow for more aggressive actions by the regulator in case of a further slowdown in weekly inflation.”
Annual inflation in Russia accelerated to 17.62% as of April 15, its highest since early 2002, the economy ministry said last week, but weekly inflation slowed. The central bank aims to bring inflation to its 4% target in 2024.
“The central bank seems confident that the most acute phase of Russia’s economic crisis has passed and that such restrictive monetary conditions are no longer necessary,” said Liam Peach of Capital Economics, who forecast a cut of 150 basis points.
“Nabiullina has sounded incredibly dovish in recent weeks and talked about the need to lower interest rates fast,” he added, expecting the bank to continue unwinding its emergency rate hike with more large cuts in the coming months to reach at least 12.5% towards the end of the year.
Sovcombank’s chief analyst Mikhail Vasilyev said the inflation slowdown, lower inflation expectations, ruble stabilization and a fall in economic activity all supported monetary easing.
Lower rates support the economy through cheaper lending but can also fan inflation and make the ruble more vulnerable to external shocks.
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