Information Notice of Bank of Russia:
The time period since the Bank of Russia Board meeting in December saw risks to price stability escalating. The stubborn glut of oil, the slowing Chinese economy, combined with the US Federal Reserve rate hike, have triggered a further drop in the price of crude. This, in its turn, caused the national currencies to weaken and asset prices to drop in emerging markets, affecting Russia. With more volatility in oil prices, the magnitude of variation in Russian financial asset prices and the ruble exchange rate fluctuation has increased.
The recent weakening of the ruble is putting pro-inflationary pressure and causes inflation expectations to grow, despite a slowdown in annual inflation. According to Bank of Russia estimates, the annual growth rate of consumer prices is set to drop from 12.9% for December 2015 to approximately 10% for January 2016. This slowdown in annual inflation is in line with the previous forecasts. The Bank of Russia expects consumer prices in 1Q 2016 to grow 8-9% against the same period last year. There are risks that inflation in 2Q 2016 may accelerate, caused by, among other factors, the low base effect. Thereafter, annual consumer price growth rate is set to resume its decline. This should occur on the back of, inter alia, reduced inflation expectations and the Bank of Russia’s monetary policy. According to the Bank of Russia estimate, on the strength of today’s decision, inflation is set to decrease to a point below 7% as early as January 2017 so it reaches the 4% target by late 2017. However, the risks have grown that inflation may deviate from the target in late 2017.
The key rate decision has been made in recognition of the current economic situation, with elevated risks of continued recession provoked by falling oil prices. The high debt load of Russian companies and interest rate risks for banks and their borrowers have also been factored in.
In 2016-2017, oil prices are likely to be lower than forecast previously in the baseline scenario. The floating exchange rate will partially offset the negative impact of energy prices on the economy. However, the balance of payments and the economy will have to be further adjusted to lower global prices for the key Russian exports. This will result in a more sizable GDP contraction in 2016 than forecast previously in the baseline scenario. The additional adjustment may take several quarters. The GDP growth rate will enter positive territory in 2017, but will be low.
However, should oil prices remain persistently low, this will further escalate inflation and financial stability risks and will require a more extensive adjustment of the economy to the new conditions. A continued persistence of high inflation expectations may also hamper the slowdown of consumer price growth. A well-balanced fiscal policy will be required to mitigate these risks in the medium term.
Should inflation risks amplify, the Bank of Russia cannot rule out a tightening of its monetary policy.