Asian central banks in little rush to raise rates

Over the past month or so, the central banks of Korea, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have all raised interest rates, but we don’t think other countries will be in any rush to follow suit. There is certainly little to worry about on the inflation front. Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka are the only three countries where headline inflation is above 5% y/y. With GDP still well below potential in most parts of the region, underlying price pressures will remain subdued. Similarly, with the exception of Sri Lanka and Pakistan, where large current account deficits are putting downward pressure on currencies, external factors are unlikely to prompt central banks into hiking rates. Although the US Fed is likely to announce plans to taper its asset purchases later this year, large current account surpluses mean Asian economies are well placed to withstand any sudden shift in capital flows that tighter monetary policy in the US could trigger. Meanwhile, unlike in Korea, there is no sign elsewhere in Asia that low interest rates are fuelling a rise in financial risks. Credit growth has slowed in many countries, with policymakers in Indonesia and the Philippines encouraging commercial banks to lend more. Finally, most countries still have large output gaps, and with the virus continuing to cause significant economic disruption across the region, central banks will remain keen to support economic activity.
Gareth Leather Senior Asia Economist
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