Russia’s Nabiullina flags further rate cut, return to inflation target in 2024 By Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Elvira Nabiullina, Governor of Russia’s Central Bank, speaks during an interview in Moscow, Russia, June 27, 2019. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina//File Photo

(Reuters) – Russian Central Bank Governor Elvira Nabiullina on Monday flagged a further cut in interest rates and said it would take two years to rein back inflation to its 4% target as the economy adapts to the impact of western sanctions.

“The period when the economy can live on reserves is finite. And already in the second and third quarter we will enter a period of structural transformation and the search for new business models,” Nabiullina said in her most significant speech since Russia sent its forces into Ukraine on Feb. 24.

She told members of parliament this would be accompanied by a surge in prices for certain goods so inflation – which hit an annual 17% in March – would be above target. But this would be caused by low supply, not high demand.

“Therefore, we will not try to return it lower by any means – this would prevent business from adapting,” she said. But “the growth of inflation should not be uncontrollable” and the bank’s monetary policy would bring it back to the 4% target in 2024.

The postponement of the bank’s key target underscored the challenge facing one of the world’s most respected central bankers as she tries to stabilise Russia’s economy under the onslaught of western sanctions.

Nabiullina raised the bank’s key interest rate to 20% from 9.5% on Feb. 28, four days after Russian forces entered Ukraine, but trimmed it to 17% on April 8.

On Monday she signalled she would seek to cut it further.

“We must have the possibility to lower the key rate faster,” Nabiullina said. “We must create conditions to increase the availability of credit for the economy.”

She also said Moscow plans to take legal action over the blocking of gold, forex and assets belonging to Russian residents, while adding that such a step would need to be painstakingly thought through.

Foreign sanctions have frozen about $300 billion of around $640 billion that Russia had in its gold and forex reserves when it launched what it calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine.

SANCTIONS BITE

Sanctions had until now mainly affected the financial market, “but now they will begin to increasingly affect the economy,” Nabiullina said.

“The main problems will be associated with restrictions on imports and logistics of foreign trade, and in the future with restrictions on exports.”

She said Russian companies would need to adapt.

“Russian manufacturers will need to search for new partners, logistics, or switch to the production of products of previous generations,” she said.

Exporters would need to look for new partners and logistical arrangements and “all this will take time”, said Nabiullina.

She said the central bank was considering making the sale of forex proceeds by exporters more flexible.

In February, Russia ordered exporting companies, including some of the world’s biggest energy producers from Gazprom (MCX:) to Rosneft, to sell 80% of their forex revenues on the market, as the central bank’s own ability to intervene on currency markets was curbed.

The bank may now soften the terms of the timing and volume of mandatory sales, Nabiullina said.

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