March 7, 2018 / 7:04 AM / 10 months ago

Malaysia's holds policy rate at 3.25 pct

KUALA LUMPUR, March 7 (Reuters) - Malaysia’s central bank left its key interest rate unchanged on Wednesday, as expected, as core inflation remains contained while the robust growth pace is expected to ease.

The policy meeting was Bank Negara Malaysia’s (BNM) first since the Jan. 25 one at which it hiked overnight policy rate for the first time since July 2014, by 25 basis points.

All 12 economists polled by Reuters expected BNM to hold its policy rate at 3.25 percent.

“At the current level of the OPR, the degree of monetary accommodativeness is consistent with the policy stance to ensure that the domestic economy continues on a steady growth path amid lower inflation,” BNM said in a statement.

The central bank raised the rate in January in a bid to “normalise” policy well before national elections that must be held by August.

BNM expects inflation to ease in 2018. Headline inflation has moderated after peaking at 5.1 percent in March 2017, staying above 3 percent each month last year.

Malaysia reported 2017 full-year growth of 5.9 percent. Growth of between 5.0 and 5.5 percent is forecast for this year. (Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by Richard Borsuk)

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