Russia may have 1 more rate cut left up its sleeve this year

MOSCOWRussia’s central bank may have veered ever so slightly off its hawkish line to leave some wiggle room for another cut in interest rates this year even as the prospect of easing remains dim.

While it kept borrowing costs unchanged for a third consecutive meeting last Friday, warning that its transition to a looser stance is “highly likely” only next year, Goldman Sachs Group Inc, VTB Capital and Gazprombank JSC said the benchmark may still be brought down from 7.25% this year. To find the clues, Gazprombank points to a statement by policymakers that inflation expectations have stabilised in July and their confidence that higher risk ratios on unsecured consumer loans could help contain risks to price growth.

“The central bank slightly softened the rhetoric, leaving itself an opportunity for one rate cut this year and at least one more next year,” said Dmitry Dolgin, a strategist at Gazprombank.

That may seem a contrarian view after the Bank of Russia said that the balance of risks has become pro-inflationary, all but delaying a policy shift it previously wanted to complete in 2018. Government measures such as a plan to raise value-added tax (VAT) complicated the central bank’s efforts to keep inflation near its target of 4%. With global trade tensions flaring and a standoff against the US showing little sign of abating, policymakers warned that developments abroad will shape their decisions alongside the VAT increase. — Bloomberg