Home Economy News Major central banks linger in uneasy calm in April

Major central banks linger in uneasy calm in April

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By Karin Strohecker and Sumanta Sen

LONDON (Reuters) – Interest rates at major central banks remained static in April as the prospect of higher-for-longer U.S. Federal Reserve rates exerted some pressure on policymakers, especially in emerging markets, where Indonesia delivered a surprise hike.

All four of the central banks overseeing the 10 most heavily traded currencies that held meetings in April – the Bank of Japan, the Bank of Canada, the European Central Bank and the Reserve Bank of New Zealand – kept benchmark lending rates unchanged. Policy makers in Switzerland, Sweden, Australia, Norway and Britain did not hold rate setting meetings.

The Fed, whose rate setting meeting straddled April and May, also left rates unchanged when its decision was published on Wednesday.

U.S. data, pointing to strong growth but also worrisome inflation pressures, cemented a divergence between the world’s top central bank and its G10 peers in April.

“The inflation downtrend is alive but unstable, persuading central banks to wait longer and cut key rates more slowly,” said Daniel Bergvall, head of forecasting at SEB.

“This is now creating different playing fields for major central banks.”

Money markets show traders see a high chance that the ECB will start cutting rates in June, but the first full quarter percentage point rate reduction for the Fed is now only priced in for November, according to LSEG data.

The prospect of higher-for-longer U.S. rates also shaped policy making in emerging economies – which had been ahead of developed peers in both the recent tightening and the easing cycle.

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The stand out in April, across the Reuters sample of 18 central banks in developing economies, was a surprise interest rate hike by Indonesia – the first since October – and a bid to shore up the rupiah currency which fell to four-year lows against the dollar.

Meanwhile, Hungary, Chile and Colombia delivered a total of 175 bps between them. Nine other central banks in developing markets that held rate setting meetings kept benchmark rates unchanged.

“For me, the key driver for EM performance this year is a global one, which is the Fed,” said Sergei Strigo, co-head of emerging markets fixed income at Amundi Asset Management.

“The repricing of interest rate cuts has been very significant as the market is now pricing in barely one cut by the end of the year, and very late this year.”

The year-to-date tally of rate hikes across emerging markets stood at 775 bps – nearly all of which were delivered by Turkey. This compares to 850 bps of cuts.

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