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Ukraine crisis throws global central banks' rate-hike plans off track

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Ukraine crisis throws global central banks' rate-hike plans off track


A disruption in global supply chains will lead to higher inflation and weaker growth, making life worse for central bankers.

Ukraine crisis throws global central banks' rate-hike plans off track
Russian President Vladimir Putin's war on Ukraine has made it harder for central bankers to take a call on policy rates even as some of them had started turning hawkish after seeing some green shoots in economies with the COVID-19 situation cooling down.
Russia supplies 10 percent of the world's oil and a third of Europe's gas. Russia and Ukraine together account for 29 percent of global wheat exports, 80 percent of sunflower oil exports and 19 percent of world corn exports. They feature among the top five exporters for barley. Although they don't form a significant chunk of global economy, the war between Russia and Ukraine will negatively impact the supply and prices of these commodities.
A disruption in global supply chains will lead to higher inflation and weaker growth, making life worse for central bankers. According to a WSJ article, central bankers have spent the past few months emphasizing that even commodity-led inflation can warrant a tighter monetary policy. The article stated that central banks have put themselves in an uncomfortable position because, and if they go by this logic, the situation warrants earlier tightening when it might otherwise be another reason to support the economy.
A Bloomberg report said that (interest) rates traders are not bailing on their tightening bets yet as they still price in a six quarter-point hike from the Federal Reserve, five by Bank of England, and one by the European Central Bank by the year-end. But with Russia invading Ukraine, the ECB's stance is likely to change.
Here is a look at five central banks:
US Federal Reserve: Likely to hike rates
Federal Reserve chief Jerome Powell will testify before Congress in early March in what are likely to be his final remarks on monetary policy before the Fed begins raising interest rates to fight the hottest inflation in 40 years. St. Louis Fed President James Bullard wants a full percentage point worth of rate hikes over three meetings. Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester has said the Ukraine war impact would be a consideration in determining the pace to "remove accommodation". Richmond Fed chief Thomas Barkin said "time will tell" if Ukraine changes outlook but affirmed inclination to start "normalizing policy to counter price pressures".
Reserve Bank of India: Unlikely to hike rates
RBI governor Shaktikanta Das has said, "monetary policy should remain attuned to the evolving domestic inflation and growth dynamics". RBI Monetary Policy Committee meeting minutes indicate policymakers may not immediately react to geopolitical tensions and will continue to support growth. The February MPC meeting ended in status quo on key policy rates and an accommodative stance. "Inflation pressures continue to emanate largely from supply-side factors. Economic recovery from the pandemic remains uneven, and continued support remains crucial. So, it is wise to remain agile and respond in a gradual, calibrated, and well-telegraphed manner to the emerging challenges," Das said.
European Central Bank: Unlikely to raise rates
European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde was already saying policymakers would "not rush to remove stimulus", but she had underlined that in a time of volatile prices "powers get limited". In ECB's last meeting, Lagarde had refused to rule out a hike in 2022. She warned that the ECB acting too fast could choke the economy's recovery. Inflation in the euro area is above 5 percent. With the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the ECB members might re-evaluate their tightening stance, and many experts believe it will be hard for the ECB to come out of its negative rate cycle soon.
Bank of England: Likely to raise rates
Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey has said there are "clear risks that inflation could overshoot the central bank's forecasts again". England's central bank deputy governor Dave Ramsden had earlier signaled a "modest tightening" to keep inflation under control. He recently said inflation would fall 2 percent below the central bank's target in two years. In the February meeting, British policymakers voted for a 50 basis point rise in rates—this was the second consecutive increase. Still, Bailey has asked markets not to get carried away about the likely scale of interest rate rises.
Bank of Japan: Unlikely to raise rates
Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda has made it clear he had no immediate plans to roll back stimulus but will "scrutinize how rising import costs could affect public perceptions on the inflation outlook". Japan's central bank is likely to keep monetary policy ultra-loose for the foreseeable future as the economy is yet to "fully recover from pandemic", according to Deputy Governor Masazumi Wakatabe. While an expected rise in fuel would push up inflation closer to the Bank of Japan's 2 percent target, concern over the damage to consumption is expected to exceed the need to combat inflation with tighter policy.
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