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Research firm predicts 25bps hike in OPR this Thursday

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RHB Research expects the central bank to hike the Overnight Policy Rate (OPR) by 25 basis points (bps) at the monetary policy committee (MPC) meeting on March 9.

Its view was predicated on three main catalysts, namely that core consumer price index (CPI) inflation is likely to remain elevated into 2Q23, the nominal effective exchange rate (NEER) is on a steep trajectory down, the risks of an announcement of a reinstatement of Goods and Services Tax (GST) in the second half of 2023 (2H23), and targeted fuel subsidy adjustment coming up.

“Our 2023 peak OPR forecast is maintained at 3.25%, with the balance of risks tilted towards a print of 3.5%,” RHB said in a note last week.

However, it said at a big picture level, the real interest rates are too low in an environment where the momentum of the economy is strong and is likely to remain above trend for the better part of 2023.

“This is a cause for concern since it generates demand side pressures and induces upside pressures on core CPI inflation.

“In addition, with financial markets continuously revising up their expectations of the US Federal Reserve(Fed) Bank peak Federal Funds Rate (FFR), pressure on Malaysia’s NEER to fall further (which has been on a steep decline recently), is likely. This will be an important consideration at Bank Negara Malaysia’s (BNM) March 9 MPC meeting,” it said.

On the fiscal policy front, RHB Research said risks are rising that an announcement of a reinstatement of the GST could be made in 2H23, with the timing of implementation unclear.

In addition, RHB Research maintains its base case assumption that a targeted fuel subsidy adjustment will ensue in 2023.

Hence, it opined that these two potential policy changes could raise inflation expectations and put upside pressure on core CPI inflation over the next six months.

Despite the supporting evidence for a 25bps OPR hike on March 9, RHB Research said there may be some other factors that may induce BNM to adopt a wait-and-see approach for the upcoming MPC meeting.

“The policy rate hike might be on hold for the MPC to assess the impact of the cumulative past OPR adjustments, given the lag effects of monetary policy on the economy,” it said.

According to BNM, it usually takes about one year for monetary policy to have the most effect on the economy as it takes time for households and businesses to change their behaviours.

Furthermore, it said, based on the previous MPC statement, BNM remained cautious on the global economic outlook.

RHB Research said the global landscape remains challenging with issues ranging from slower economic growth to unresolved geopolitical tensions, which would potentially lead to downside risks to Malaysia’s economy.

Source: TheMalaysianReserve.com

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