Poland Postpones Tighter Policy Until Early 2018 After Rate Held

  • Central bank keeps benchmark at 1.5%, matching forecast
  • Economy to expand enough to prompt tightening, governor says

Poland’s central bank pushed back the timeline for policy tightening into early 2018 after keeping its main interest rate at a historic low for an 18th month.

The 10-member Monetary Policy Council left the seven-day reference rate at 1.5 percent on Wednesday, matching the predictions of all 31 economists surveyed by Bloomberg. Governor Adam Glapinski reiterated that he expects the council’s next move to be an increase, while adjusting the outlook given in September by delaying the likely timing of tightening to 2018 from late next year.

The National Bank of Poland has ignored the longest stretch of price declines in at least six decades and defended its policy of stable rates by increasingly focusing on financial stability. The pressure to resume easing for the first time since March 2015 is now fading after negative price growth moderated last month to the least this year and a rebound in industrial output exceeded forecasts, indicating that concerns about an economic slowdown in the second half may have been premature.

“The Polish economy will keep on growing and at a certain moment, when growth will be strong enough, I predict we will move to tightening,” Glapinski said. “It won’t be in 2017 though. I hope it will be some time early in 2018.”

To watch Glapinski’s news conference, click here.

Glapinski conceded that the economy will miss the central bank’s expectations this year and growth of 3.5 percent is “out of reach.” Gross domestic product in the third quarter probably expanded at a pace similar to the previous three months, the bank said in a statement. It also said that rates at their current record-low level help keep Poland on a path of balanced growth and maintain macroeconomic stability.

GDP added 3.1 percent in the second quarter from a year earlier, missing the median forecast in a Bloomberg survey and prompting a series of negative revisions of the outlook for the rest of the year. Even so, Glapinski said data released since the last rate meeting support the central bank’s view that deflation will end this year or at the start of 2017 and also suggest that a weakening in manufacturing and retail sales in the summer was temporary.

Derivatives traders have scaled back their wagers on monetary easing to almost zero. Twelve-month zloty forward-rate agreements, an indication of rate expectations, dropped by almost half this month alone and traded eight basis points below the Warsaw Interbank Offered Rate on Wednesday, down from as much as minus 28 basis points in August. The zloty was little changed after the rate decision.

Data Surprises

The economy isn’t in the clear yet. A slump in construction deepened in August to 20.5 percent from a year earlier, the biggest drop in more than three years, suggesting weak investment remains a drag on the economy. Investment declined almost 5 percent in the second quarter, when Poland’s gross domestic product expanded 3.1 percent from a year earlier, missing estimates and prompting a series of downward revisions for the rest of 2016.

Deflation retreated to 0.5 percent in September from 0.8 percent a month earlier, while industrial production and retail sales surprised with bigger-than-forecast increases in August. Poland’s Purchasing Managers Index for manufacturing in September also exceeded the median estimate, surging at the fastest clip since March as output and new orders rose.

“While we agree that inflation will return to positive territory, it’s unlikely to reach the central bank’s 2.5 percent target any time soon,” William Jackson, a senior emerging-markets analyst at Capital Economics in London, said in a note. “So long as the ECB provides further stimulus, then we think the next move in interest rates is more likely to be down than up.”

— With assistance by Barbara Sladkowska, and Wojciech Moskwa

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