Bank of Russia hiked key refinancing rate to 8.25 by 25bps on the foot of rising inflation pressures, with current rate back at the levels seen last in November 2011. The bank also hiked overnight repo rate to 5.5% and deposit rate to 4.25%.
Inflation in agricultural commodities is the core driver as Russia raised some food tariffs and as weaker crops bit into domestic supply. Imports demand for agricultural goods and relative pressure on the ruble vis USD are additional factors.
The signal from the BR is relatively clear: although Russian economic growth has been under some pressure in H1 2012, inflation is back on the rise, hitting 5.9% in August up on record low of 3.6% back in Q2 2012. BR target is for inflation at 5-6% so the move is reactionary, rather than precautious. The balance in BR decision is between containing inflation and political fallout from rising food prices, associated pressure on the ruble, against the corporate sector demand for capital. In other words, the BR is comfortable with the overall levels of investment in the economy in the short run. This highlights the dilema faced by the Russian policymakers, who are aware that Russia needs to push up domestic investment in core areas where capital modernization is desperately required: manufacturing and industrial base, as well as basic infrastructure. This longer term objective is likely to be supported by a combination of public investment and incentives for longer term private investment. With this in mind, recent restructuring of the Russian SWF and easing of the new SWF mandate to invest in a range of financial instruments, including listed equities.
Chart for Russian CPI forecasts: