Egypt's central bank seen making fourth consecutive interest rate cut: Reuters poll

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt’s central bank is likely to cut interest rates for a fourth consecutive time on Thursday, a Reuters poll showed, despite inflation rising in December.

FILE PHOTO: Central Bank of Egypt's headquarter is seen in downtown Cairo, Egypt September 18, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

Eight out of 11 economists surveyed by Reuters expected the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) to cut rates. Four saw a 50 basis point cut and four predicted a 100 bps cut.

“With December inflation confirming inflation will normalise at 6-7%, we think the CBE has ample room to continue reducing interest rates,” said Mohamed Abu Basha of EFG Hermes, who predicted a 50 bps cut.

Egypt’s annual urban consumer price inflation rose to 7.1% year-on-year in December from 3.6% in November, though this had been expected as favourable base-year effects wore off.

Inflation had fallen as far as 3.1% in October, its lowest since December 2005. Month-on-month urban headline inflation stood at -0.2% in December from November, falling for a second consecutive month.

The CBE cut rates by a combined 350 basis points at its last three consecutive meetings, and 100 bps in February 2019. The overnight rates are at 12.25% for deposit and 13.25% for lending.

The bank’s monetary policy committee had been due to meet on Dec. 26 but the meeting was postponed to Jan. 16 pending the confirmation of committee members under governor Tarek Amer’s second four-year term.

“I expect to see the MPC of the Central Bank of Egypt continue the trend, seen over the last year, of cutting rates by 100 bps,” said Angus Blair of business and economic forecasting think-tank Signet.

“The main beneficiary of the cut in rates is the government, which will see greater and much-needed fiscal manoeuvrability, as well as a few stock market listed indebted companies.”

Radwa El-Swaify of Pharos Securities Brokerage was one of three economists to forecast that the CBE would hold rates steady.

“We expect the CBE to hold rates constant on Jan. 16, in light of the uptick in inflation, in order to assess the impact of the previous rate cuts, and in light of geopolitical unrest in the region,” she said.

Swaify added that the CBE would “start resuming a less aggressive easing cycle in 2020 whereby we expect a 200-300bps cut in rates over the course of the calendar year”.

Reporting by Yousef Saba and Patrick Werr; Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Alison Williams