Fed and other banks to make ‘major progress’ on rates this year, BIS chief says

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An eagle tops the U.S. Federal Reserve building’s facade in Washington, July 31, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/

Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

The Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank look poised to make “major progress” in cutting interest rates this year, according to the central bank of central banks.

Agustín Carstens, general manager of the Bank for International Settlements, told CNBC on Monday that major central banks had so far made “very impressive advances” in lowering inflation and suggested that they could soon shift toward a looser monetary policy stance.

“If everything goes fine, I think that, certainly this year, we will see major progress, especially toward the second part of the year,” Carstens told Annette Weisbach.

BIS serves as a bank and forum for national central banks, and as such has close understanding of their monetary policies. It holds no sway over policymakers’ decision-making.

Carstens warned that the “last mile” on the path of disinflation was likely to prove the trickiest.

“We have done the tightening, but the effect on the rest of the economy is still going. The uncertainty is how much impact will that be,” he said.

“Central bankers have to be very observant about the path of disinflation, and they have to keep going until the job is fully done.”

Investors are closely watching the future course for interest rates, with expectations of a shift toward looser monetary policy already bringing some relief to markets after months of interest rate hikes designed to dampen persistently high inflation.

During its March meeting, the ECB held interest rates steady, but hinted at a June rate cut as it trimmed its annual inflation forecast. ECB chief economist Philip Lane sought to temper those expectations last week, telling CNBC that any decision would depend on the latest economic data.

The Fed and the Bank of England are expected to shine future light on their plans for interest rates during their monetary policy meetings this week.

Higher-than-expected U.S. inflation data released on Thursday prompted some economists to curb predictions for a swathe of 2023 cuts. JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs said they now see the Fed reducing rates three times this year from June onwards.

The BoE is also expected to lower rates starting from June, according to analysts, with Goldman Sachs forecasting as many as five 25 basis point cuts.

The Bank of Japan is meanwhile predicted to lift interest rates on Tuesday, according to a Reuters poll, marking a major turn in its nearly two-decade-long cycle of negative interest rates.

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