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Korea Monetary Policy February 2022

Korea: BOK stands pat in February

At its meeting on 24 February, the Bank of Korea (BOK) kept the base rate steady at 1.25%. The decision was unanimous and in line with market expectations.

The move marked a pause in the BOK’s gradual normalization of its monetary policy. The BOK had mentioned at its prior January meeting that it would assess the effects of past base rate increases before deciding whether to raise rates further. This, and the Bank’s view that new downside risks to the economic outlook have emerged—most notably those arising from geopolitical tensions—likely pushed it to stand pat.

Nonetheless, the Bank raised its inflation forecasts for 2022 and 2023. As a result, the Bank now sees inflation as remaining significantly above its 2.0% target for the remainder of its forecast horizon, increasing the likelihood of a base rate increase during its next meetings in April and May.

In its press release, the BOK kept its hawkish tone, stating that it would adjust the degree of accommodation after taking into account inflation, financial imbalances, the impacts of the current policy rate and possible future hikes, and monetary policies in other major economies. The large majority of our panelists see at least one additional hike of 25 basis points by the end of this year.

Analysts at ANZ see several rate hikes at the Bank’s next meetings:

“Notably, while the Central Bank kept its growth forecasts unchanged, it raised its inflation projections significantly, thereby signalling that further tightening is in the pipeline, probably as soon as its next meeting in April. With South Korea’s inflation likely to remain elevated for longer and the increased likelihood of a more aggressive U.S. rate hiking cycle, the risks of a deeper BOK tightening cycle are building. Our baseline is now for three more 25 basis points hikes this year, bringing the policy rate to 2.00% by year-end.”

Analysts at Nomura, meanwhile, argue that the Bank will continue to stay pat:

“In conclusion, amid growing downside risks to economic growth and higher policy uncertainty, the BOK may take more time […] before deciding whether to hike further. While inflation remains the bigger concern for the BOK, the looming downside risks to the growth outlook will likely add to the BoK’s reluctance to make any hawkish decisions in Q2. […] For now, we maintain our view that the BoK will leave the policy rate unchanged at 1.25%.”

The next monetary policy meeting will be held on 14 April.

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