Excerpts from Information Notice of Bank of Russia:
On 18 March 2016, the Board of Directors of the Bank of Russia decided to keep its key rate at 11.00% p.a. Despite certain stabilisation in financial and commodity markets and a slowdown in inflation, inflation risks remain high. These stem from the current developments in the oil market, persistently high inflation expectations and some uncertainties surrounding budget configuration. To enable the accomplishment of inflation targets, the Bank of Russia may conductits moderately tight monetary policy for a more prolonged time than previously planned. The Bank of Russia predicts that, consistent with this decision, annual inflation will total less than 6% in March 2017, to reach the 4% target in late 2017.
In making its key rate decision, the Bank of Russia Board of Directors took as a premise the expectations for oil prices which are lower than its December forecast. The current oil market still features a continued oversupply, on the backdrop of a slowdown in the Chinese economy, more supplies originating from Iran and tighter competition for market share. This is why the certain recovery in crude prices seen in the recent weeks may prove to be unsustainable. In recognition of this, the Bank of Russia assumed in its baseline scenario the average forecast oil price of $30 per barrel in 2016, with its gradual rise to $40 per barrel to 2018.
Despite growing oil prices and ruble strengthening in the latest period, the accumulated weakening of the ruble, impacted by the drop in oil prices, between late 2015 and early 2016, is still putting pro-inflationary pressure on the economy, contributing to continued high inflation expectations.
In making its key rate decision, the Bank of Russia took into account the macroeconomic fundamentals which suggest a less severe downturn than previously estimated considering this level of oil prices. The floating exchange rate serves to partially set off the negative impact of the external shocks on the economy. The weakening of the ruble has resulted in Russian products gaining competitiveness, while it also helped economic growth in individual industries. These include agriculture, the food industry, chemicals and mining. Employment data and production capacity utilisation have recently been steady.
The economic adjustment to the low level of commodity prices is expected to continue. The Bank of Russia forecasts assume the economic downturn to slow down to 1.3%-1.5% in 2016. Also, it is expected that quarterly GDP growth rates will enter positive territory between late 2016 and early 2017. Going forward, the advancing processes of import substitution and non-energy export expansion will help a gradual economic recovery.
The risks remain that inflation may exceed the target in late 2017. These relate to a further worsening in the oil market developments; persistent elevated inflation expectations; the global food price performance; changed rates of indexation of regulated prices, wages and pensions, as well as the uncertainty around a balanced federal budget over the medium term. To enable the accomplishment of inflation targets, the Bank of Russia may conduct its moderately tight monetary policy for a more prolonged time than previously planned.