December 17, 2018 / 10:14 AM / 6 months ago

Indonesia seen keeping key rate on hold whatever action Fed takes: Reuters Poll

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia’s central bank is expected to keep interest rates unchanged at its final policy meeting of 2018, which will end hours after the Federal Reserve is expected to again raise U.S. rates, a Reuters poll showed.

All but one of 21 analysts surveyed said they expect Bank Indonesia (BI) to hold the benchmark on Thursday. The other one sees another 25 basis points (bps) hike.

Last month, BI surprisingly raised its main policy rate IDCBRR=ECI for a sixth time since May, bringing the 7-day reverse repurchase rate to 6.00 following an increase of 175 bps.

“The main reason we are not expecting a rate hike this month is the improved performance of the currency,” Capital Economics told clients in a note.

This year, the rupiah IDR= had fallen to a 20-year low against the dollar, before it rebounded sharply in November due to foreign inflows.

However, the currency has weakened again this month and been trading around 14,400-14,600 a dollar in recent days, about 7 percent weaker than 2017’s closing.

November’s $2.05 billion trade deficit, the widest in over five years, would likely not trigger another rate hike, despite it complicating the government’s efforts to narrow the current account deficit, analysts said.

The cause of the November trade deficit was “not structural in nature, driven mostly by external factors such as low commodity prices that compressed Indonesia’s exports, as well as cyclically high imports in the fourth quarter,” Satria Sambijantoro, Bahana Sekuritas analyst said.

He said that BI should keep rates on hold because these are factors beyond its ability to solve.

The central bank has repeatedly said exchange rate stability, alongside the broader financial markets and economic stability, was its main focus in determining interest rate policy and that there is no imminent risk of inflation overshooting its target.

Some analysts think BI will resume policy tightening next year, but it may take cues from the Fed’s interest rate path.

Bank Mandiri chief economist Anton Gunawan said his forecast of two 25-bp rate increases in 2019 is based on his bank’s baseline estimate of three Fed rate hikes.

However, Gunawan also noted that market bets on fewer U.S. rate increases have been rising as more people now talk about a possible recession in the world’s biggest economy.

This, coupled with oil prices staying below $70 per barrel, could mean less pressure on Indonesian markets, he added.

Polling by Nilufar Rizki, Tabita Diela and Fransiska Nangoy; Writing by Gayatri Suroyo; Editing by Richard Borsuk

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