On Monday, Central European currencies further extended previous gains keenly awaiting a (positive) outcome of Greek debt talks. The EUR/HUF cross rate even touched 200 days moving average (EUR/HUF 287.85) while the koruna was in late afternoon seen at EUR/CZK 24.90 level.
Yesterday, Hungary’s central bank vice-governor Karvalits told Reuters that the council should be mindful of the latest gains of the forint as well as easing market tensions while setting interest rates this month (Feb 28th). Hence, he indicated a certain move to a more dovish stance. Regarding the latest meeting, he somehow dismissed concerns about the fact that the bank’s management had been outvoted by four members named by Mr. Orban last year to keep rates unchanged and said one should not draw conclusions from the results of a single rate decision. However, he noted that several factors has to be born in mind and that the “clear commitment of government to strike a deal with EU/IMF” stressed by the majority of board at the last meeting is just a one of them and that the deal itself would not trigger rate cuts automatically. We expect that the MNB will keep interest rates unchanged at the next week’s meeting as headline inflation accelerated to above 5% Y/Y on VAT hike. Further tightening does not look needed now, but definitely the VAT hike does not seem to pass on smoothly. Overall, cautious monetary policy is warranted, i.e. the MNB may wait with reducing the base rate.
Regarding the fresh figure on average wages, it showed a faster than expected growth in December 2011. However, the headline figure was significantly influenced by one-off factors – wages in private sector excluding bonuses grew just by 5.1% Y/Y, i.e. more or less stagnated in real terms.