Global central banks aren’t giving up their inflation fight yet with the peak in interest rates still to come in most economies, but pauses will come at some point in 2023 — and perhaps even pivots.
After spending 2022 hiking borrowing costs by the most in four decades to restrain the surging price pressures they helped fan and then failed to forecast, Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell and European Central Bank president Christine Lagarde are among the international policymakers set to tighten further in the early months of this year.
Of the 21 other jurisdictions monitored by Bloomberg, 10 of them are expected to increase rates, nine are projected to cut and two are seen on hold.
That combination has Bloomberg Economics calculating its global gauge of rates will peak at 6 per cent in the third quarter before ending 2023 at 5.8 per cent. That would be the highest since 2001 and up from 5.2 per cent at the start of the year.
But it also points to central banks diverging after virtually all shifted rates up in 2022, albeit with the notable exceptions of Japan and China. The latter is predicted to lower borrowing costs again this year, along with Canada, Russia and Brazil.
Decisions may become harder as rates move further into restrictive territory and risk constricting demand so much that economies topple into recessions. That’s the worry of bond traders who are increasingly sceptical of the ability of central banks to keep hiking and then hold tight.
Here is Bloomberg’s quarterly guide to 23 of the world’s top central banks, covering 90 per cent of the world economy.
After lifting rates to 4.3 per cent last month from near zero in March, they’ve forecast a peak of 5.1 per cent this year with no rate cuts before 2024 to curb high inflation.
Investors see at least a quarter-point increase when the central bank gathers Jan 31-Feb 1, with officials continuing at that pace for the next two meetings.
Bets in futures markets also predict the Fed will cut rates before year end, but policymakers bridle at that suggestion.
Minutes of their December meeting revealed concern over an “unwarranted” easing in financial conditions that amounted to an unusually blunt warning not to underestimate their will to keep rates high for some time.
European Central Bank
The European Central Bank (ECB) plans to continue to raise rates “significantly at a steady pace” this year and has flagged two more half-point hikes in the first quarter to wrest back control over inflation. Current projections show price pressures will likely stay above the 2 per cent target through the end of 2025 — despite 250 basis points worth of tightening since last July.
Policymakers have argued that a recession this winter won’t be strong enough to prompt a U-turn, and have announced plans to shrink their bond holdings. Between March and June, the ECB will allow an average of 15 billion euros (S$21.3 billion) a month to roll off its balance sheet. The expiration of longer-term loans in the first half will remove another 670 billion euros from the financial system.
Bank of Japan
Bank of Japan (BOJ) governor Haruhiko Kuroda is set to face intense market scrutiny in the final three months of his decade-long term, after shocking global financial markets last month. The base case is for Kuroda to now hold, but the governor has demonstrated anything is possible by abruptly widening the yield target band.
Another highly anticipated event is the nomination of Kuroda’s successor by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. With his popularity hovering around record lows, the premier can’t afford to get this wrong. The nomination is likely to come by the end of February and will give an idea of the BOJ’s policy path not only for 2023 but for the next five years.
Bank of England
The Bank of England is still in hiking mode, but the pace of rate rises is likely to slow in the months ahead. After delivering the quickest monetary tightening in 33 years, the UK central bank is expected to drive its benchmark lending rate up another 75 basis points to 4.25 per cent by the middle of this year. Investors who just a few weeks ago were certain February’s meeting would include a half-point hike are now signalling a smaller increase is possible.
While inflation is lingering near a four-decade high, most forecasters say the economy is already in a recession that will be worse and longer than in any other G7 nation. Concerns about how a cost-of-living squeeze is hitting consumers along with falling house prices and tumbling trade following Brexit are some of the headwinds making policymakers led by Governor Andrew Bailey hesitate to continue the sharp moves made in 2022.
Bank of Canada
The Bank of Canada has opened the door to pausing its hiking campaign, and markets are betting officials will make another 25-basis point increase to the benchmark overnight rate at the central bank’s January 25th decision before holding at 4.5 per cent, below the Fed.
Households in the northern nation have relatively high debt levels compared with many other developed countries, including the US — a big reason why governor Tiff Macklem will be carefully weighing how consumers weather last year’s aggressive increases to borrowing costs.
Canada’s economy is expected to gear down and enter a recession in the first half of 2023, with the central bank cutting rates by the end of the year, but sticky core inflation, a hot labour market, and better-than-expected growth figures are risks to further tightening in the near-term.
Brics central banks
After easing monetary policy in 2022 to help bolster the economy, and with Covid still wreaking havoc on China’s growth, People’s Bank of China (PBOC) officials have signalled monetary stimulus in 2023 will be at least on par with last year. They face a potential window to cut rates in the first quarter, as soaring Covid infections curb consumer and business activity and keep inflation subdued, while the Fed is slowing its policy tightening.
Inflation in China will likely pick up once the economy starts to rebound, which is expected to happen in the second quarter. That may drive the PBOC to scale back stimulus. The central bank is also under pressure to help the property market, which is in its worst slump in modern history, weighing on economic growth.
Reserve Bank of India
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) delivered five straight increases to contain inflation that has hovered above the top end of a 2 per cent-6 per cent target for most of 2022. Price gains finally cooled below the ceiling of that range in November and are likely to keep easing, giving the RBI scope to slow, if not pause the tightening in the coming meetings.
With the 6.25 per cent benchmark rate near a four-year high, a member of RBI’s rate-setting panel said the level already poses a risk to growth in Asia’s third-largest economy.
Central Bank of Brazil
Brazil’s central bank will likely hold its benchmark rate steady throughout the first quarter. While annual inflation has slowed by more than half since April and previous monetary tightening will crimp demand, policymakers led by Roberto Campos Neto are worried about growing public expenditures and an eventual increase in taxes.
Those concerns prompted traders to scrap bets for rate cuts early this year, and most economists don’t see any easing until September. Indeed, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva took office on Jan. 1 after congress approved an additional 168 billion reais (S$31 billion) to spend in 2023. Central bankers continue to warn that they won’t hesitate to resume tightening if inflation doesn’t slow as expected.
Bank of Russia
The Bank of Russia finds itself at a crossroads as elevated inflationary risks may require tighter monetary policy in 2023 while the economy, struggling amid sweeping sanctions, still needs more support from lower rates.
Governor Elvira Nabiullina sent a neutral signal in December, stressing her concern Russia’s war in Ukraine may accelerate inflation as the Kremlin’s September mobilisation order has worsened a labour shortage, diverting hundreds of thousands of workers to the front and sending others feeling the country.
Recent data showing unemployment at a record low and real wages on the rise for the first time since March suggest the shortage of workers is intensifying, leaving the central bank less room to resume easing.
South African Reserve Bank
South Africa’s central bank may slow the pace of rate hikes while prolonging its most aggressive tightening cycle in at least two decades.
The Reserve Bank has front-loaded its fight against inflation, raising the key rate by 350 basis points since November 2021. Governor Lesetja Kganyago affirmed its commitment to taming the “monster of inflation” in November when the MPC lifted borrowing costs by 75 basis points for third-straight meeting.
Inflation is predicted to slow and the key rate is higher than the year-end 2025 level that the bank’s quarterly projection model — which the MPC uses as a guide — suggests it should be, fuelling downshift predictions. Forward agreements used to speculate on borrowing costs show traders are fully pricing in a 25 basis-point hike in January, with a chance of a bigger half-point move.
Mint central banks
Banco de Mexico has signalled plans to raise the benchmark rate again at its next decision in February, affirming the record-breaking hiking cycle started in 2021 is not over. Local monetary policy has historically been influenced by the Fed, but Mexico’s central bankers have insisted they may not move in lockstep with their US counterpart.
Persistent core inflation, which excludes volatile items such as fuel, remains a headache for board members led by Victoria Rodriguez Ceja. Local economists expect that price measure to rise around 5 per cent this year, above the 3 per cent inflation target. Policymakers are seen trimming rates to 10.25 per cent by December, according to a survey by Citigroup’s local unit.
Indonesia’s central bank is likely to continue with smaller rate increases to shore up Asia’s worst-performing currency of the past quarter and rein in headline inflation that’s been above a 2-4 per cent target for more than half a year.
Governor Perry Warjiyo promised last month that Bank Indonesia won’t raise rates excessively, saying that inflation is easing and that he expects the rupiah to strengthen.
That would give him the room to help protect the recovery of South-east Asia’s biggest economy amid slowing global growth. Indonesia’s output is poised to reach US$1.3 trillion. That almost matches Mexico, which is the 15th largest economy in the world.
Central Bank of Turkey
Turkey’s monetary policy in the first half of 2023 will be guided by elections in June. The central bank, led by governor Sahap Kavcioglu, is almost certain to maintain an ultra-loose monetary policy, and possibly deliver more rate cuts near the vote. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — who had called for single-digit rates — has indicated he is content with current borrowing costs after the central bank delivered four rounds of reductions despite inflation at over 80 per cent.
Erdogan will be accelerating public spending before the elections and attempt to support growth by providing cheap loans. Base effects mean that inflation started to decelerate the end of 2022, but it’s expected stay high for much of this year.
What will happen with monetary policy after the election is unclear. Economists are nearly unanimous in calling for an urgent change in direction.
Central Bank of Nigeria
Having lifted its benchmark rate by five percentage points since May, the central bank is expected to continue tightening at its next MPC meeting later this month.
Inflation is running at its fastest pace in more than 17 years and is expected to remain elevated because of continued currency weakness and campaign spending ahead of Feb 25 elections.
MPC members reiterated in November, when they hiked by 1 percentage point, that they want to close the gap between inflation and the policy rate — currently at 500 basis points — to encourage investment, restore price stability and guard against the risk of a persistent upward shift in price-growth expectations.
Other G20 central banks
Bank of Korea
After more than a year of hikes, the Bank of Korea is approaching the end of its tightening push as concerns mount about slowing growth. The central bank is likely to raise the benchmark by a quarter-percentage point when it meets on Jan. 13, but it may be the last increase of the cycle.
Exports will weigh on the minds of policymakers for the remainder of 2023 as they consider how long to pause. The trade-reliant economy is expected to grow 1.7 per cent this year, down from 2.6 per cent in 2022. Exports are anticipated to fall for months to come, led by weaker semiconductor demand.
Reserve Bank of Australia
The Reserve Bank of Australia is nearing the end of its tightening cycle after cementing its position as one of the most dovish central banks in the developed world. It pivoted to smaller quarter-percentage-point hikes in October and gave itself maximum flexibility to manoeuvre by saying future moves will be data-dependant. Economists are predicting two more quarter-point steps in 2023 to take the cash rate to 3.6 per cent.
Australia’s A$2.2 trillion (S$2 trillion) economy has so far stomached the hikes without much pain, helped by solid consumer spending and strong business investment. Economists expect the country will dodge a recession, even with the housing market in a deep downturn and consumer sentiment in doldrums. A rebound in overseas migration, a strong labour market with unemployment near 50-year lows and still-high household savings are seen supporting the economy.
Argentina’s central bank, led by Miguel Pesce, has committed to a positive real rate, in line with a US$44 billion agreement with the International Monetary Fund. Keeping that promise is no easy task with annual inflation running near 100 per cent, and policy pledges under the IMF programme have wavered in the past.
Complicating the outlook further are prospects of financial-market volatility ahead of presidential elections in October. An ongoing drought affecting key commodity exports — an economic lifeline of hard currency that helps prevent sharp peso devaluations — will also have a heavy influence on how high borrowing costs may have to rise.