* C.bank does not rule out further shift in timing
* Says risks to its outlook are anti-inflationary
* New data point to need to keep intervention regime longer
* Crown is a shade weaker on the day, but within range (Adds c.bank comments, market, details)
By Jason Hovet and Robert Muller
PRAGUE, June 26 (Reuters) - The Czech central bank on Thursday pushed back its expected exit from a policy of keeping the crown currency weak until no earlier than the second quarter of 2015, citing anti-inflationary risks.
The bank’s board had earlier signalled that its commitment to intervene to weaken the crown if necessary would stay in place at least until the start of 2015. It said on Thursday it did not rule out a further change in the timing of any end to its loose policy.
The bank has pledged to keep the crown close to 27 to the euro while letting it float freely on the weaker side of that level. It reiterated on Thursday that keeping this policy in place was preferable to shifting to an even weaker crown level to loosen monetary conditions.
The crown was a touch weaker on the day, but still within the middle of its traded range of recent months at 27.460 to the euro, down 0.1 percent from Wednesday’s close.
At a regular meeting on Thursday, the bank also kept its benchmark two-week repo rate at a record low of 0.05 percent, where it has been since November 2012.
The central bank intervened to weaken the crown currency in November to battle deflation risks.
The export-reliant Czech economy is recovering from its longest-ever recession, which ended a year ago. Inflationary pressures remain subdued and the bank reiterated risks to its own forecast were slightly anti-inflationary.
“New data point to a slightly anti-inflationary balance of risks to the current forecast and, overall, they further increase the need for a later exit from the use of the exchange rate as a monetary policy instrument,” Governor Miroslav Singer said at a news conference after the meeting.
“In line with this, the Bank Board stated at its meeting today that the Czech National Bank would not discontinue the use of the exchange rate as a monetary policy instrument before the second quarter of 2015, and it did not rule out a further shift of the exit from this regime.”
Czech annual inflation stood at 0.4 percent in May, below the bank’s forecast and well short of its target of 2 percent.
The economy grew at its fastest pace in three years in the first quarter, expanding by 2.5 percent year-on-year with both foreign and domestic demand gaining pace. It grew by 0.4 percent on a quarterly basis.
After another set of strong retail sales data, Singer wrote in a blog piece posted on the bank’s website this month that consumers and businesses were starting to make “normal” purchasing and investment decisions after a period of expectations of falling prices.
Ceska Sporitelna analyst Jan Sedina said in a note that the continuing lowering of the consumer price growth outlook meant the central bank was losing a necessary buffer enabling it to exit from the intervention regime.
“The exit from the intervention regime will thus have to be gradual, while the probability grows it will need to postpone it further into 2015,” he said.
The European Central Bank cut interest rates to record lows on June 5, launched a series of measures to pump money into the sluggish euro zone economy, and pledged to do more if needed to fight off the risk of Japan-like deflation.
Other central banks in Europe are also loosening policy, with Hungary extending an easing cycle to almost two years on Tuesday by cutting its base rate to a record low of 2.3 percent. (Editing by Andrew Roche)