Malaysia c.bank seen holding key rate on easing inflation, steady growth
KUALA LUMPUR, July 9 (Reuters) – Malaysia’s central bank is expected to leave its benchmark interest rate unchanged at a meeting on Wednesday, as growth remains firm and a short-term dip in inflation is expected after the new government removed a much-maligned consumption tax.
All 10 economists polled by Reuters forecast that Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) will hold its overnight policy rate at 3.25 percent.
Unlike Indonesia and the Philippines, Malaysia has hiked its policy rate just once this year, by 25 basis points in January. That increase was the only hike since July 2014.
It will be the first BNM policy meeting with Nor Shamsiah Mohd Yunus as governor. She assumed the post on July 1.
Soon after taking office, Mahathir scrapped the 6 percent goods and services tax imposed in 2015, which Malaysians said was a major contributor to rising living costs and a key reason to reject Najib Razak and his long-ruling coalition.
Scrapping GST will likely bring a significant fall in inflation rate, expected to average around 1 percent in 2018’s second half, Capital Economics said in a note.
As a result, it said, “another rate hike is probably off the table”.
In May, BNM said scrapping GST would impact inflation, but it was too early to say by how much. It projected 2018 full-year headline inflation at 2-3 percent.
May’s annual inflation rate was 1.8 percent.
Standard Chartered, in a note on Friday, said external pressure may push the central bank to hike its key rate, should it become a drag on the ringgit currency, though it did not say when this could happen.
The ringgit traded at 4.033 to the dollar at midday on Monday. It has weakened about 4.50 percent since April 2, a peak for the year.
StanChart has maintained its 2018 full-year economic growth projection at 5.3 percent, saying the pace would “moderate from strong levels in 2017, but remain firm”.
Prior to the election, BNM forecast 2018 growth at 5.5-6.0 percent, and has not made a fresh projection since the voting. The government reported 2017 growth at 5.9 percent.