The South African Reserve Bank left its benchmark repo rate on hold at 7 percent at its July 21st meeting, as widely expected. Policymakers said the inflation is expected to accelerate further this year and the economy is anticipated to have a weak recovery despite the contraction in the first quarter.
Excerpts from the statement issued by Lesetja Kganyago:
7/21/2016 3:52:09 PM
The domestic economic growth outlook remains extremely challenging, following the contraction in GDP in the first quarter of this year. Although this is anticipated to have been the low point of the cycle, the recovery is expected to be weak. The Bank’s latest forecast is for zero per cent growth in 2016, compared with 0,6 percent previously. Growth rates of 1,1 per cent and 1,5 per cent are forecast for the next two years, down from 1,3 per cent and 1,7 per cent previously. The Bank’s estimate of potential output has been revised down marginally to 1,4 per cent in 2016, rising to 1,7 per cent in 2018. This growth outlook is corroborated by the persistent negative trend in the Bank’s leading indicator of economic activity. Business confidence remains low with the RMB/BER business confidence indicator falling to its lowest level since 2009 in the second quarter of this year.
The Monetary Policy Committee remains concerned about the weak economic growth outlook and the medium term inflation trajectory which remains outside the target range of 3 to 6 per cent until the second half of next year. Nevertheless there have been some improvements in the near term inflation prospects following successive downside surprises. This is also the case for core inflation, where the expected breach of the upper end of the target range is now less protracted. While the risks to the inflation forecast are assessed to remain on the upside, these risks have moderated somewhat.
The outlook is clouded by the uncertainty surrounding the longer term market and global growth implications of Brexit. The implications for the rand and domestic growth, and ultimately inflation, could vary quite significantly depending on which scenario plays out.
The rand has been supported by the global search for yield. There was a sharp increase in non-resident inflows to the domestic bond and equity markets in June and July. Since the beginning of June, net purchases by non-residents of R107,3 billion have been recorded. The rand also responded positively to the improvement in commodity prices, and the unexpectedly large trade surplus recorded in May which followed a small surplus in April. Despite this recent strength, the rand remains vulnerable to possible “risk-off” global scenarios; changes in US monetary policy expectations; and domestic concerns including the possibility of ratings downgrades later in the year.
While the committee remains concerned about the overall inflation trajectory, the assessment of the balance of risks to the inflation outlook and the weak domestic economy has provided some room to delay further tightening of the monetary policy stance for now. Accordingly the MPC has unanimously decided to keep the repurchase rate unchanged at 7,0 per cent per annum. The MPC is aware that some of the favourable factors that contributed to this decision could reverse quickly, and remains ready to react appropriately to any significant change in the inflation outlook.