Poland: NBP holds fire on rates in February
As largely expected by market analysts, the National Bank of Poland (NBP) kept the reference rate unchanged at a record low of 1.50% at its 6–7 February monetary policy meeting. This marked nearly three years since the last time the reference rate was changed. In addition, the Bank held the Lombard rate unchanged at 2.50%, the deposit rate at 0.50% and the rediscount rate at 1.75%.
The solid pace of economic expansion and manageable inflationary pressures were behind the Bank’s decision to hold fire. Recently released data showed GDP growth of 4.6% in 2017, on the back of buoyant private consumption and a rebound in fixed investment associated with rising EU fund inflows. Although data for Q4 is not yet available, tight labor market conditions, rising wages and the disbursement of benefits likely underpinned household spending in the final quarter, as suggested by strong figures for retail sales. Furthermore, strong industrial production readings indicate fixed investment also expanded at a healthy rate in Q4. Meanwhile, available lead indicators for Q1 2018 point to a strong start to the year: Business confidence surged to an over nine-year high in January, and in the same month the PMI continued to signal expansionary conditions in the manufacturing sector.
Despite data pointing to a robust performance in the real economy, inflation in December moderated to just 2.1%, thus moving below the NBP’s 2.5% target. In turn, core inflation remained comfortably low, supporting the view the Bank expressed in the previous monetary policy meeting, that the spike in headline inflation recorded in November would prove transitory. Although energy prices have risen in recent months, agricultural commodity prices have moved in the opposite direction, exerting downward pressure on prices.
In its communiqué the NBP suggested that changes to the current monetary policy stance are highly unlikely. In fact, the Bank considers the current level of interest rates to be consistent with a level of inflation close to the Bank’s 2.5% target over the next two years, as well as with healthy GDP growth and macroeconomic stability. This is also consistent with the ECB’s current policy stance. Moreover, as growth is expected to soften this year, inflationary pressures should ease.
The next monetary policy meeting is scheduled for 6–7 March.