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Malaysia Monetary Policy July 2023

Malaysia: Bank Negara Malaysia holds rates in July

At its 5–6 July meeting, the Monetary Policy Committee of Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) left the overnight policy rate (OPR) unchanged at 3.00%, following its surprise hike in May. Markets widely anticipated the decision.

The Bank stood pat as inflation fell to a one-year low of 2.8% in May, and concerns regarding economic growth loomed larger. The BNM noted that the disinflationary trend had continued steadily, and it now sees both core and headline inflation continuing to moderate as expected. Moreover, the extension of electricity tariffs for households in the remainder of 2023 will limit price pressures going forward, making another rate hike less necessary. With regard to the economy, the Bank pointed out that downside pressures to growth continue to emanate from a downbeat global economy. As such, domestic demand remains the key driver of economic growth this year. Accordingly, the Bank held rates stable to maintain an accommodative monetary policy stance.

The Bank did not provide explicit forward guidance. However, it noted that it would continue to ensure that “the monetary policy stance remains conducive to sustainable economic growth amid price stability”. Given stronger economic headwinds and higher political costs of further rate hikes amid Malaysia’s elevated household debt levels, further rate increases are unlikely. Virtually all FocusEconomics panelists see rates remaining at current levels by end-2023. Nevertheless, mounting depreciatory pressures on the ringgit pose an upside risk to rates later this year.

On the outlook ahead, analysts at the EIU commented:

“We believe that BNM has room to keep the OPR on hold for the rest of the year, as the need to stimulate growth has to be balanced with potential inflation risks. The central bank will delay an OPR cut until global inflationary pressure has subsided, which we expect to occur in mid-2024. Although an impending El Niño weather phenomenon is likely to result in higher food prices in 2024, we believe that the upside risk to inflation will be minor and will not deter BNM from easing next year.”

The next monetary policy meeting is scheduled for 6–7 September.

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