CBs cut rates but there are signs of change

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    LONDON- Emerging market central banks delivered a net two interest rate cuts in February though signs are increasing that an easing cycle which started in 2019 might be coming to an end.

    Of a group of 37 central banks across developing economies, policy makers in Mexico and Indonesia cut interest rates in February, following a total of one net interest rate cut in January.

    The tally between rate cuts and hikes across the group has been negative or zero since February 2019. This is the longest easing cycle since the 2008 financial crisis and the 2010 euro crisis.

    Mexico’s central bank had cut its benchmark interest rate for the first time since September, flagging uncertainty over the economic outlook and global efforts to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Policy makers in Indonesia trimmed rates for a sixth time during the pandemic and eased lending rules in a bid to shore up its economy while downgrading its 2021 growth forecast.

    However, central banks in a number of smaller emerging markets such as Tajikistan, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and Zambia raised rates last month to counter inflation pressures.

    “More central banks are turning towards hikes which is the first step in the reaction to the more inflationary environment,” said Viktor Szabo at Aberdeen Standard Investments.

    At the peak of the easing cycle in March last year, 27 of the 37 central banks cut interest rates, trying to protect their economies as the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic rippled through markets around the world.