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Given the fragile state of the economy, the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) has left interest rates unchanged at 5% (the lowest rate since 1946) amid concerns of rising food and fuel prices as well as a weaker rand. Reuter’s economists expect this rate to remain constant in this current economic climate, with some estimating that the next interest rate hike may only be seen in 2014.
The SARB still faces the task of maintaining its fine balancing act between remaining accommodative for economic growth purposes; whilst still maintaining its mandate of inflation targeting. As stated at the last MPC meeting:
“Inflation is now expected to average 5,9 per cent in 2013 and 5,3 per cent in 2014, compared with the previous forecasts of 5,8 per cent and 5,2 per cent for these respective years. Inflation is expected to breach temporarily the upper end of the target range in the third quarter of 2013, when it is expected to average 6,3 per cent, and then to moderate gradually to 5,2 per cent in the final quarter of 2014. This deterioration is largely due to the depreciation of the rand and higher petrol prices, which more than offset the impact of the lower electricity price increases and a lower starting point.”
Local domestic growth (GDP) is expected to remain relatively low at 2.6% with the IMF (International Monetary fund) stating that the local economy remains particularly fragile. The South African economy is also faced with concerns surrounding a widening current account deficit and risk and uncertainty in the domestic labour market, all of which could result in further weakening of the rand.
Looking ForwardInflation forecasts continue to move steadily upwards and appear to have fairly significant upside risk in the form of Rand volatility. However, the SARB will be aware that stability is necessary for consumers and producers in the economy to regain confidence. Therefore, given its recent stance on remaining supportive to economic growth, there is evidence that, despite its inflation-targeting mandate, the Reserve Bank will remain “growth” prudent and keep interest rates at accommodative levels for as long as possible. The Reserve bank will however continue to be concerned about the growing threat of stagflation (high inflation, low growth), amid risk perceptions about the economy
Therefore, at SAHL our view on interest rates remains unchanged…we believe that, unless there is an inflationary shock, rates should remain stable for the remainder of 2013 with the SARB only looking to increase the REPO rate once economic growth has stabilised at respectable levels.
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