Poland: Central Bank stands pat in March despite heightened coronavirus-related risks
The National Bank of Poland (NBP) kept the reference rate unchanged at a record low of 1.50% at its 3–4 March monetary policy meeting. In addition, the Central Bank held the Lombard rate stable at 2.50%, the deposit rate at 0.50% and the rediscount rate at 1.75%. The Bank has stood pat since ending its easing cycle in March 2015.
The Bank’s decision to stand pat resulted from balancing off higher inflation with softening albeit still-solid growth and the ultra-loose monetary policy stance of the European Central Bank. The Bank therefore opted to adopt a wait-and-see approach with regard to the economic impact of coronavirus. Headline inflation jumped to 4.4% in January from 3.4% in December—stoked by rising food and utility prices, as well as by excise tax hikes—moving above the upper bound of the Central Bank’s target range of 2.5% plus or minus 1.0 percentage point. Meanwhile, growth slowed notably in Q4 2019, weighed by destocking and weaker consumer spending.
Looking ahead, the Bank maintained its positive assessment of the country’s economic conditions. That said, it expects growth to slow compared to previous years, with inflation receding as a consequence, while the outbreak of coronavirus adds considerable downside risks to the short- to medium-term economic outlook.
Commenting on the likely direction of monetary policy ahead, Rafal Benecki, chief economist for Poland at ING, and Karol Pogorzelski, Poland economist at ING, noted:
“As Covid-19 expands rapidly, emergency easing in the eurozone and CEE region will raise the odds of a National Bank of Poland rate cut too.”
The next monetary policy meeting is scheduled for 7–8 April.