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Bank of Thailand Keeps Rates Steady Despite Calls for Cuts



The central bank is expected to keep its benchmark interest rate unchanged near record lows on Wednesday, despite calls for a cut to contain the strength of the baht

BANGKOK – The Bank of Thailand (BoT) has said monetary policy still supports the country’s economic recovery. Though inflation has remained weak, high household debt is limiting its room to lower borrowing costs further.

The baht has risen over 8% against the dollar so far this year, the most among Asian currencies.

So far, exports seem to have weathered the stronger currency, with August shipments jumping 13.2% on-year, but the government is worried that exports and economic growth could take a hit in 2018 if the baht continues to climb.

All but one of 22 economists in the poll forecast the BoT’s one-day repurchase rate will be kept at 1.50% – where it has been since April 2015 – when its Monetary Policy Committee meets on Wednesday.

One predicted a 25 basis-point cut, citing a need to curb the baht’s appreciation to preserve export competitiveness.

The Finance Ministry and business groups have called on the central bank to cut rates further for the same reasons.

Annual headline consumer prices rose just 0.32% in August, below the BoT’s 1-4% target range. The BoT has said that has been driven by supply-side factors.

All but one of 13 analysts in the poll who gave a view on year-end rates expected no change for the rest of 2017.

Growth in Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy has picked up but still lags regional peers. The BoT predicts 2017 growth of 3.5% after last year’s 3.2%.

It may upgrade that forecast on Wednesday following stronger-than-expected GDP data in April-June.

Source: Reuters, Bangkok Post

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