Egypt: Central Bank stands pat in September for the fourth consecutive time
September 27, 2018
At its monetary policy meeting held on 27 September, the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) left the overnight deposit rate at 16.75%, the overnight lending rate at 17.75% and the main operation rate at 17.25%. All decisions were in line with market expectations and came after the CBE cut all rates in March with the aim of supporting economic activity.
The economy appears to be in a strong position. Business conditions in the non-oil economy improved in both July and August, while economic growth hit a multi-year high in the April-to-June period. In terms of prices, inflation accelerated to 14.2% in August from July’s 13.5%, mainly due to higher prices for fresh fruits and vegetables. Moreover, prices for regulated items rose strongly in August, stoked by recent government subsidy cuts. Despite the inflationary uptick, the CBE noted that the trajectory of inflation remains in line with the target range of between 10% and 16% in Q4 2018.
Although economic growth is good and inflation is on target, there are several uncertainties that likely warranted caution and, hence, the extension of the status quo from the Central Bank in September. These include tightening global financial conditions related to rising interest rates in major economies and the recent decrease in appetite for emerging-market assets among global investors; escalating trade tensions; and volatile oil prices.
There was little forward guidance regarding monetary policy intentions in September, although the Central Bank is likely to continue pursuing a gradual loosening of monetary policy in the short-term with the aim of supporting economic activity, while monitoring economic developments. Nevertheless, the CBE noted that it would “not hesitate to adjust its stance to achieve its mandate of price stability over the medium term”.
The next monetary policy meeting will be held on 15 November.
Author: Edward Gardner, Economist