Emerging Europe

Ukraine

Virus outbreaks diverge, but Omicron a renewed risk

COVID-19 outbreaks in Central and Eastern Europe have diverged in the past month and that may continue in December, but the emergence of the potentially highly-transmissible Omicron variant could replace Delta as the dominant strain and result in severe virus waves across the region. The recent experience is that there is a high bar for economically-damaging containment measures. But Omicron could change that if health systems come under increased strain, prompting a renewed downturn in activity. While our baseline view is that this won’t happen, renewed virus outbreaks – coming alongside other headwinds in the form of supply chain disruptions and surging inflation – means that the pace of growth is likely to slow sharply in the coming months.

30 November 2021

Lira crisis, MNB hikes, Ukraine-IMF, Romanian politics

This week has been dominated by the collapse in the Turkish lira and all our research on the crisis can be found here. While Turkey’s problems have been driven by a ‘head-in-the-sand’ approach to inflation and falls in the lira, Hungary’s central bank tightened policy further this week amid signs that officials across Central Europe are taking the inflation fight more seriously and becoming less tolerant of currency weakness. Elsewhere, the early signs are that a new grand coalition in Romania does not have the appetite for much-needed austerity. Finally, the latest tranche of IMF funds provide a welcome boost for Ukraine’s economy.
Drop-In: Why is Asia sitting out the global inflation surge? 09:00 GMT/17:00 HKT, Thursday 2nd December https://event.on24.com/wcc/r/3546145/A9D34EF592141BEFCAC819ADB40359D5?partnerref=report

26 November 2021

Rate hikes to take some heat out of growth and inflation

The sharp tightening of monetary policy in the region will strengthen the preference for savings, dampen lending growth and raise debt servicing costs next year. It is plausible to think that higher interest rates could trim 0.5-0.8%-pts off GDP growth and 0.8-1.0%-pts off inflation in Central Europe in 2022-23.

9 November 2021
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Five points on the latest virus developments in EMs

The COVID-19 situation in many EMs has improved markedly over the past month or so as new infections have fallen sharply and vaccine rollouts have gathered pace. That said, the recent surge in virus cases in Emerging Europe serves as reminder that the risk of renewed outbreaks lingers, particularly where vaccine coverage is low. Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa still look particularly vulnerable on this front.

Virus outbreaks shine spotlight on vaccine hesitancy

The surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths in Eastern Europe has prompted the re-imposition of restrictions and it looks like measures will be stepped up, weighing on recoveries in Q4. Tight restrictions may not remain in place for long across Central Europe, but vaccine hesitancy has held back rollouts in the east and the risk in low-vaccine coverage countries such as Russia, Romania, Bulgaria and Ukraine is that containment measures need to stay tight for a prolonged period to suppress outbreaks.

Renewed virus waves cast clouds over the recovery

COVID-19 outbreaks have surged across the region in the past month. Record high daily cases have been reported in Russia, Romania, Bulgaria and Latvia and infections are rising sharply elsewhere. Governments have tightened containment measures, including a four-week lockdown in Latvia and closures of hospitality services in Russia. 40-60% of people in most countries have received two vaccine doses, but rollouts have slowed and the spread of a new, highly transmissible subvariant (so-called “Delta plus”) highlights that much higher vaccine coverage is needed to supress outbreaks on a sustainable basis. Most countries are unlikely to follow Israel’s lead in rolling out booster jabs quickly and it is likely that governments will tighten restrictions further in the coming weeks. This will add to the headwinds from surging inflation and supply disruptions in industry and provides another reason to think that GDP growth will slow in Q4.

Near-term recovery to face stronger headwinds

The region has experienced a rapid recovery, but the re-opening boost has now faded and the region is likely to face stronger headwinds in the near term due to surging COVID-19 cases, rising inflation and supply disruptions. Central European economies are vulnerable to shortages of key production inputs in the auto sector and low vaccine coverage countries such as Russia, Romania and Ukraine look most at risk of imposing tighter containment measures. Inflation is likely to remain stubbornly high over the coming months and central banks are likely to continue their front-loaded tightening cycles well into next year.

Inflation pressures mount as activity rebounds

Recoveries across Emerging Europe accelerated in Q2 as the easing of virus restrictions pushed GDP to, or above, pre-pandemic levels in most countries and we think this momentum will continue in Q3. However, the recovery has been accompanied by a marked increase in price pressures. Consumer and producer price inflation reached multi-year highs in July and shows no sign of letting up. We think inflation will fall only slightly in Russia and Turkey by year-end and will rise further above central banks’ targets in most of Central Europe. Interest rates are likely to be raised further in Russia, Ukraine, Czechia and Hungary and the risks are skewed to tightening cycles starting earlier than we currently expect in Poland and Romania.

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