Russia may slash main interest rate as coronavirus takes toll: Reuters poll

William Arsn

By Elena Fabrichnaya and Andrey Ostroukh

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s central bank is expected to cut its benchmark interest rate by a deeper-than-usual 100 basis points on Friday, as the economy plunges into recession due to still-low oil prices and a lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the new coronavirus.

Nineteen analysts and economists in a Reuters poll of 31 experts said they believed the central bank would cut its key rate to a record low of 4.5{5667a53774e7bc9e4190cccc01624aae270829869c681dac1da167613dca7d05} <RUCBIR=ECI>.

“We expect the central bank to cut the key rate by 100 basis points at the next meeting as there is no speed-up in inflation,” said Sergey Konygin, chief economist at Gazprombank.

Governor Elvira Nabiullina has openly said the board will consider cutting rates by 100 basis points on June 19, among other options.

That would make lending cheaper and may lessen the economic contraction after the coronavirus pandemic, which has battered business and consumer activity. A partial lockdown across Russia has capped the risk of inflation substantially overshooting the central bank’s 4{5667a53774e7bc9e4190cccc01624aae270829869c681dac1da167613dca7d05} target.

But lower rates are unlikely to have a strong direct impact on the economy’s post-pandemic recovery, analysts said.

Ten analysts predicted a 50-basis-point cut to 5{5667a53774e7bc9e4190cccc01624aae270829869c681dac1da167613dca7d05}, while two others said the central bank would cut the key rate by 75 basis points to 4.75{5667a53774e7bc9e4190cccc01624aae270829869c681dac1da167613dca7d05}.

Market expectations that Russia will cut rates have already sparked a rally in Russian OFZ government bonds, popular among foreign investors. Lower rates drive down bond yields, which move in the opposite direction to their prices.

Friday’s rate decision is due at 1030 GMT and will be followed by an online media conference with Nabiullina, who is expected to shed more light on the monetary policy outlook and present new economic forecasts.

(Writing by Andrey Ostroukh; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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