By Alexander Marrow and Elena Fabrichnaya
MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia will raise interest rates to 16% on Friday, a Reuters poll showed on Monday, with inflation pressure exacerbated by labour shortages and lending growth forcing the central bank to extend its monetary tightening cycle to one last hike.
The expected 100 basis point increase at the Bank of Russia’s final meeting of the year should mark the end of a tightening spree that began in July, when rates were as low as 7.5%.
Stubbornly persistent inflation pressure, aggravated by the rouble’s dramatic weakening earlier this year, as well as labour shortages, government spending and high lending, has pushed rates to their current level of 15%.
Twenty-three of 27 analysts and economists polled by Reuters on Monday predicted that the Bank of Russia would raise its key rate to 16% at Friday’s meeting. Three predicted a sharper hike, one forecast a hold at 15%.
The bank surprised analysts in late October with a stronger-than-expected 200 basis point hike to 15%.
Alexander Fetisov, head of Rosselkhozbank’s analytics department, forecast a 100-basis point hike, with higher credit growth and increasing inflation expectations creating grounds for the central bank to make another hike and maintain tight rhetoric.
“A more radical increase cannot be ruled out with the aim of mitigating likely inflation trends at the start of 2024 and to maintain the inflation forecast range for 2024 at 4-4.5%,” Fetisov said.
Monthly inflation accelerated in November at its fastest pace since April 2022, data showed on Friday, all but cementing analyst expectations for a hike.
Annual inflation stood at 7.48% last month, well above the bank’s 4% target and almost exceeding its 7-7.5% forecast range for 2023.
“The overheated labour market, growing state spending and active issuance of subsidised mortgages are leading to significant inflationary pressure,” said Sovcombank, forecasting a hike to 16%.
Inflation and high interest rates are among challenges facing Russia’s economy as President Vladimir Putin prepares for a March presidential election, though Moscow’s success in evading a Western oil price cap is helping drive a recovery in economic growth and easing pressure for now.
In late February 2022 Russia ramped up its benchmark rate to 20% in an emergency move after Moscow despatched tens of thousands of troops to Ukraine, which led to increasingly wide-ranging Western sanctions being imposed in response.
The key rate was then gradually cut to 7.5%, before the bank started hiking in July.
(Reporting by Elena Fabrichnaya in Moscow and Alexander Marrow in London; Editing by Susan Fenton)