The pace of interest rate hikes by major developed and emerging market central banks continued at a healthy clip in March though the scale of rises tapered off somewhat as turmoil in the banking sector clouded the outlook for global growth.
March saw six interest rate hikes across eight meetings by central banks overseeing the 10 most heavily traded currencies. Policy makers in Australia, Switzerland, Norway and Britain joined the U.S. Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank in lifting key lending rates by a total of 200 basis points (bps). Policy makers in Japan and Canada kept benchmarks unchanged.
This follows six interest rate hikes delivering 250 bps of uplift across six meetings by G10 central banks in February.
March was a roller coaster for markets and policy makers, with rising expectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve’s rate could peak at 6%, before a collapse of a number of U.S. banks and the Credit Suisse crunch rocked global markets, raised concerns over financial stability and clouded growth prospects.
“The Fed and other central banks made clear banking troubles would not stop them from further tightening,” Wei Li, global chief investment strategist at the BlackRock Investment Institute, wrote in a note to clients.
“By clearly separating financial and price stability goals and tools, major central banks carried on with rate hikes through the tumult.”
However, the world’s top central banks are openly contemplating an early end to their rate hikes, not least because of the recent financial turmoil.
On the flipside, oil prices surging on Monday on the back of a surprise OPEC production cut could add to fresh inflation pressures, analysts said. O/R
In emerging markets, a slowdown in the rate hike push was more evident. Fourteen out of 18 central banks in the Reuters sample of developing economies met to decide on rate moves, but only five hiked by a total of 150 bps – Mexico, Thailand, the Philippines, Colombia as well as South Africa, which delivered a bigger than expected 50-bps rate hike. The other nine left rates unchanged.
This compares with February, when 13 emerging central banks met and only four hiked by a total of 175 bps.
“We are almost at the end of the hiking cycle,” Alessia Berardi, senior economist at the Amundi Institute, said.