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Currency Wars – the Czech Episode

Currency Wars – the Czech Episode

08.11.2013 10:52

After a year of discussions, the Czech National Bank has finally decided to join ongoing currency wars. Yesterday, the Bank Board surprisingly announced to begin to target the EUR/CZK exchange rate (close) to the 27.0 level. The trigger to activate interventions come from a new forecast envisaging an inflation fall next year, with monetary relevant inflation even to be negative. Through the weak koruna, i.e., increased import prices, the CNB thus wishes to stir up inflation, while also targeting ’consumption postponed for speculative reasons’.

The CNB Board was deciding on a new forecast, the baseline scenario of which is seen by the bank as so unrealistic (envisaging negative interest rates) that the bank had to switch to an alternative scenario, using forex interventions. As the CNB is unable to provide negative interest rates, the forecast requires the use of alternative monetary instruments – the koruna rate. Hence the central bank decided to intervene in order to keep the exchange rate weaker. The CNB is resolved to intervene in such volumes and for such duration as required to keep the koruna weak, with the aim of hitting its inflation target in the future. The target exchange rate of close to EUR/CZK 27.0 has been set in such a way as to ensure that the central bank need not change it anytime soon. Its changes should be less frequent than interest rate changes. The CNB does not want to terminate its intervention regime until the bank is very certain that it will not need to launch the interventions again. The Governor’s comments on the press conference also indicated that the exit is unlikely in 2014, which is in our view a realistic estimate. We should add, however, that the CNB Board will vote on keeping or changing this regime at each of its monetary policy meetings (e.g. on Dec 17th).

Ac concern the market reaction - the central bank truly succeeded in surprising almost all. The koruna weakened by almost 5%, up to its target level. Nevertheless, following days and weeks will show how tolerant the CNB will be to any eventual koruna’s strengthening. Naturally, room for koruna’s easing remains unlimited like in the case of the Swiss franc (against the euro).

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