LONDON : More G10 central banks raised interest rates in June than in any month for at least two decades, Reuters calculations showed, and with inflation at multi-decade highs, the pace of policy-tightening is unlikely to let up in the second half of 2022.
Central banks overseeing seven of the 10 most heavily traded currencies delivered 350 basis points of rate hikes between them last month – nearly half the total 775 bps administered by policymakers across the group this year to date.
While the U.S. Federal Reserve lifted rates 75 bps to a range of 1.5 per cent-1.75 per cent, its biggest single move since 1994, Switzerland stunned markets with a 50 bps hike in borrowing costs, matching moves by Australia, Sweden, Norway and Canada.
These countries are still far behind the emerging market central banks which mostly initiated rate hike cycles last year. But they are moving fast.
Already in July, the Reserve Bank of Australia has delivered a 50 bps rate increase. On July 21, the European Central Bank will deliver its first rate hike since 2011 and the Fed is widely expected to go with another 75 bps at its July 26-27 meeting.
“The Fed seems on autopilot to get to 3.5 per cent and the ECB similarly is on autopilot to get rates to positive levels,” said Alex Brazier deputy head of the BlackRock Investment Institute.
But U.S. rates at 3.5 per cent “will have the effect of seriously slowing the economy, so after that it will have to change course”, Brazier added.
The task of squaring that circle between avoiding a hard-landing on growth and reining in inflation – now in double-digits in many countries – is hardest for developing nations.
Emerging economies for the most part were quick off the mark in their battle against inflation, raising rates well before developed peers began to do so.
Many continue to lift borrowing costs but the situation poses risks. With inflation failing to peak as expected in the first six months of the year, “hiking fatigue” may set in, warned Luis Oganes, JPMorgan’s head of Global Macro Research.
“Those central banks will face the question of what is the least they can hike in the second half to anchor inflation expectations without pushing their economies into recession,” Oganes said.
In May, as it became clear that the Russia-Ukraine conflict – and the ensuing inflationary shocks – would last longer than anticipated, 12 central banks from a group of 18 big developing economies raised rates. Eight more followed in June.
In total, emerging market central banks have raised interest rates by 4,415 bps year-to-date, compared to 2,745 bps for the whole of 2021, calculations show.
“Ironically, even though emerging markets tightened much earlier and more forcefully, inflation may not fall as quickly as in developed markets if food inflation continues to rise,” said Manik Narain, head of emerging markets strategy at UBS.
“In this respect the biggest growth/inflation tradeoff is likely being faced in emerging markets, not the U.S..”