Philippines May Cut Rate to Join Asian Easing
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas will reduce the rate it pays lenders for overnight deposits by a quarter of a percentage point to 4.25 percent, according to 13 of 17 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News ahead of a decision tomorrow. The rest expect the benchmark to be left unchanged at 4.5 percent.
Lower borrowing costs may aid President Benigno Aquino’s efforts to boost growth as he increases spending and seeks investment for roads and airports. The Philippine Stock Exchange Index (PCOMP) rose to a record this month and became the best performer among 19 Asian share indices tracked by Bloomberg in the past six months as investors bet policy makers will take steps to stimulate growth and counter faltering global demand.
“Conditions are right for the cut,” said Trinh Nguyen, a Hong Kong-based economist at HSBC Holdings Plc. “Across Asia, inflation is on the downward trend. Growth concerns are enough to motivate the BSP to give a lending hand.”
Growth in Asian economies is faltering as Europe’s debt woes hurt the region’s exports. China yesterday reported its weakest expansion in 10 quarters. The Philippines’ $200 billion economy expanded 3.2 percent in the third quarter from a year earlier, holding near the 3.1 percent pace in the previous three months that was the slowest since 2009.
Scope for Easing
Bangko Sentral Governor Amando Tetangco said last week he anticipates easing monetary policy this quarter should Europe’s sovereign-debt crisis further damp the growth outlook.
“Given benign inflation conditions and a favorable inflation outlook, we have room to support domestic activity should the global economy deteriorate significantly,” Tetangco said Jan. 9. Policy makers may cut the benchmark rate or reduce banks’ reserve ratio as the central bank forecasts inflation this year and next will average closer to the low-end of a 3 percent to 5 percent target, he said.
Inflation slowed to an 11-month low in December, with consumer prices rising 4.2 percent from a year earlier. Exports (PHEXYOY) fell for a seventh month in November.
The Philippine central bank kept its benchmark policy rate unchanged for a fifth meeting in December after two increases earlier in 2011. It also raised the reserve requirement twice last year, bringing the ratio to 21 percent.
Bank Indonesia, which kept its benchmark rate unchanged last week for a second month after reductions in October and November, widened the lower range of its interbank lending rate this week in a de facto easing of monetary policy.
The central bank in Southeast Asia’s largest economy said yesterday it would extend the bottom end of its deposit facility to 200 basis points below its benchmark interest rate from 150 basis points. The move is a form of easing by pushing interbank borrowing costs lower, Wee-Khoon Chong, a Hong Kong-based fixed- income strategist at Societe Generale SA, wrote in a note.
Aquino is increasing spending this year to a record 1.83 trillion pesos ($42 billion) to help bolster Philippine growth to as much as 8 percent annually. The government also plans to offer as many as 16 projects to investors this year, compared with one contract awarded in 2011.
Ayala Corp., leading a consortium that won a contract last month to build a four-kilometer, four-lane paved toll road leading to provinces south of the capital, may bid for two road projects and a contract to run an airport, Managing Director Eric Francia said Dec. 15.
Aquino has won sovereign-rating upgrades from Fitch Ratings and Moody’s Investors Service after intensifying efforts to narrow the budget gap from a record 314 billion pesos in 2010. Standard & Poor’s raised its outlook on the country’s debt rating last month.
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