Bank Indonesia to hold rates until Q2, elections unlikely to sway monetary policy: Reuters poll

By Anant Chandak

BENGALURU (Reuters) – Bank Indonesia will keep its key policy rate unchanged at a Feb. 20-21 meeting over subdued inflation and an improving outlook for the currency, according to a Reuters poll of economists who predicted the first rate cut to come next quarter.

Indonesia’s inflation rate has stayed within the central bank’s 1.5%-3.5% target range since July, suggesting cumulative rate hikes of 250 basis points were working.

The rupiah, although down 1.4% against the dollar this year has performed better than many of its peers.

With inflation under control, the central bank has room to leave its policy unchanged in the near-term.

All 30 economists in the Feb. 12-16 poll expected Bank Indonesia (BI) to hold its benchmark seven-day reverse repurchase rate at 6.00% on Wednesday.

Median forecasts showed interest rates staying on hold until at least end-March, followed by a 25 basis-point cut in each quarter to end the year at 5.25%.

That was in line with the U.S. Federal Reserve’s expectations for 75 bps of cuts to its fed funds rate this year.

“We retain our forecast of the first rate cut by BI during the June meeting after the Fed makes its first rate cut announcement in May. We continue to maintain that BI policy decision is mainly influenced by the Fed actions and any delay by the Fed might delay BI rate action,” said Kunal Kundu, economist at Societe Generale.

“Given their high dependence on foreign holding of government bonds, their monetary policy continues to be guided by the currency movement and bond yields and not necessarily inflation unless it rises too high, too fast.”

A majority of economists, 17 of 29, expected at least one rate cut next quarter and among them, 14 forecast the key rate at 5.75% and three at 5.50%. The remaining 12 saw it remaining at 6.00%.

“Risks are mostly on the external side, namely that the U.S. inflation may remain hotter than expected, which would cause rate cuts to be delayed,” said Elbert Timothy Lasiman, economist at Bank Central Asia, who forecast no rate change.

Economists saw limited impact of Indonesia’s presidential election. Unofficial vote counts showed Prabowo Subianto as the likely winner markets rallying on his promise to follow incumbent Joko Widodo’s policies.

Official results are due by March 20 at the latest.

“As current economic policies will likely continue under a Prabowo government … the impact on both monetary policy and fiscal policy will be limited,” said Jeemin Bang, an associate economist at Moody’s Analytics.

(Reporting by Anant Chandak; Polling by Milounee Purohit and Devayani Sathyan; Editing by Hari Kishan, Jonathan Cable and Tomasz Janowski)

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