Russian central bank expected to cut rates for second time this year

A Russian national flag flies over the Central Bank headquarters in Moscow, Russia, May 17, 2016. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin/File Photo

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia’s central bank will cut its main lending rate by 50 basis points when it meets on Friday, a Reuters poll predicted, as inflation data have improved.

The bank has treaded cautiously on monetary policy this year, cutting its key rate RUCBIR=ECI only once out of five policy meetings so far.

The rate now stands at 10.5 percent as the bank aims to bring inflation down to 4 percent by the end of next year, from 6.9 percent year-on-year in August RUCPIY=ECI.

Central bank Governor Elvira Nabiullina insists the bank will maintain moderately tight monetary policy. She said on Friday fast growth in unsecured consumer lending could hinder a slowdown in inflation.

Twenty-two of 26 economists said they expected the central bank to cut its key rate to 10 percent. The remaining four forecast no change in rates.

“We anticipate the favorable inflation backdrop and still struggling, if recovering, economy will create the right environment to cut policy rates by 50 bpts at each of the remaining three policy meetings by year end,” Citi analysts said in a note.

But Natalia Orlova at Alfa Bank said she expected no change in rates as a recent government decision to delay a one-off payment to pensioners until early 2017 showed officials wanted to bring inflation down quickly, which would be helped by keeping rates high.

If the central bank doesn’t cut rates, that would encourage carry traders buying high-yielding Russian assets, Vladimir Miklashevsky at Danske Bank said.

Reporting by Elena Fabrichnaya and Alexander Winning, editing by Larry King