By Anant Chandak
BENGALURU (Reuters) – Bank Indonesia will maintain its key policy rate for a second month on Thursday as inflation is within its target range and the rupiah has stabilised, showed a Reuters poll of economists who forecast the first cut to be in the third quarter of 2024.
Inflation has stayed within the central bank’s 2023 2% to 4% target range for sixth consecutive months despite an uptick in inflation last month.
The rupiah has gained nearly 2% since a surprise rate hike in October, easing pressure on imported prices.
Governor Perry Warjiyo recently said the policy rate would be on hold into next year as it was restrictive enough to keep inflation within the bank’s 1.5% to 3.5% target for 2024 and the rupiah would become more stable as the U.S. Federal Reserve was widely expected to start policy easing next year.
All 28 economists in the Dec. 11-18 poll expected Bank Indonesia (BI) to hold its benchmark seven-day reverse repurchase rate at 6.00% at the conclusion of its Dec. 20-21 meeting.
“Bank Indonesia will likely remain on hold … given manageable inflation and currency movement. Although we expect inflation to remain comfortably within the bank’s new inflation target next year, risks are tilted to the upside,” said economist Makoto Tsuchiya at Oxford Economics.
“We expect the rupiah strength to partly reverse towards the end of the year, (but) we think another hike is unlikely. The next move will likely be a cut. BI will likely shift its focus to a growth picture gradually towards the middle of the year.”
Median forecasts showed the key interest rate unchanged until at least the end of the second quarter of 2024, followed by a 50 basis-point cut in the third quarter to end the year at 5.50%.
For the second quarter next year, 10 of 22 respondents saw rates at 5.75% or lower. Only eight had that view in a November poll.
Nearly all economists said the next move from BI would be a cut. Among those who provided third-quarter forecasts, 15 of 19, or over 75%, expected the rate to be 5.75% or lower, while four saw it at 6.00%.
“The dovish tone emerging from the recent Fed meeting should be good news for BI. We expect the central bank to remain on hold for the next few months rather than opt to reverse the unexpected October hike and we do not rule out the bank opting for a rate cut earlier than we have been expecting,” said economist Kunal Kundu at Societe Generale.
“What above-target inflation might mean is a shallow easing trajectory. In fact, with growth yet to be on a strong footing and a national election looming next year, there is every case for monetary policy to be supportive of the economy. Hence, the next policy rate change will be a cut.”
Warjiyo put Indonesia’s GDP growth outlook within a range of 4.7% to 5.5% for 2024 and 4.8% to 5.6% for 2025. However, headwind was still expected from weakening global economic growth.
(For other stories from the Reuters global economic poll, click here.)
(Reporting by Anant Chandak; Polling by Vijayalakshmi Srinivasan and Veronica Khongwir; Editing by Jonathan Cable, Hari Kishan and Christopher Cushing)