Hungary CB keeps interest rates on hold, launches bond purchase - GulfToday

Hungary CB keeps interest rates on hold, launches bond purchase


The National Bank of Hungary building in Budapest.

Hungary’s central bank (CB) left interest rates on hold and said it would begin its bond-buying scheme and mortgage bond purchase on May 4 without any set target amount, to soften the economic impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

National Bank of Hungary (NBH), the central bank, said it would not restrict the scope of maturities of government securities to be purchased but would focus on securities with at least three years to maturity.

“The Monetary Council did not set a total amount of purchases for either programme. The NBH will perform a technical revision when stock increases reach HUF 1,000 billion in government securities and HUF 300 billion in mortgage bonds,” it said.

It said it would buy government securities in the secondary market at regular weekly auctions and in transactions outside the auctions. The NBH said its asset purchase programmes would allow it “to influence monetary conditions at the longer part of the yield curve.”

The bank said it would carry out the purchases “as long as economic and financial developments arising from the coronavirus pandemic justify it.”

All 15 economists in a Reuters poll said last week that the bank would leave its base rate at 0.9%. Analysts also said the overnight deposit rate would remain at -0.05%.

Earlier this month, the NBH had abandoned its ultra-loose policy stance as it navigated a tricky path of preventing a sell-off in the forint while providing support for the shrinking economy.

The bank tightened policy in two steps at the start of April to arrest a fall in the forint, which sank to record lows near 370 versus the euro. That propped up the currency.

The NBH has also said it will begin buying bonds in the secondary market to support the government securities market and re-open mortgage-bond purchases to improve long-term funding to the banking sector.

Hungary has raised its budget deficit target to 2.7% of GDP and to finance the increased issuance needs, it quickly issued 2 billion euros worth of eurobonds last week.

However, analysts said the government’s projections looked overly optimistic and the budget deficit could rise to 4.5% of economic output, while the economy could shrink by 4.1% this year.

Finance Minister Mihaly Varga told Reuters on Friday that the economy would likely contract more than the government’s earlier projection for 3%.

The central bank has already announced a lending programme for companies and begun a series of liquidity-boosting measures for banks in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, Hungary’s government has outlined plans to tax large retailers as part of an economic package to tackle the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, but the new levy is intended to become a permanent feature of the tax system.

The tax, detailed in a bill on parliament’s web site late on Tuesday, is expected to raise 36 billion forints ($110 million) from the largest retailers this year and more in subsequent, full years as the economy recovers.


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