BRASILIA, Feb 22 (Reuters) - Brazil’s central bank will likely maintain its aggressive pace of interest rate cuts on Wednesday despite some calls to further step up monetary easing to rescue an economy mired in recession.
The bank’s 9-member monetary policy committee, known as Copom, will likely cut its benchmark Selic rate by 75 basis points to 12.25 percent, according to all but one of the 54 economist surveyed by Reuters last week.
Unions and business groups have demanded a cut of 100 basis points to reduce some of the world’s highest borrowing costs, which they say could undermine a still feeble recovery.
A rapid drop in inflation, which could end the year below the 4.5 percent official target, has strengthened the case for a bolder rate cut after the bank surprised markets by cutting more than expected at its last meeting.
The recent appreciation of the real currency has analysts betting on more aggressive rate cuts ahead.
“We think there is a growing case for a bolder cut of 100 basis points– if not now, then at the next policy meeting,” economists with BNP Paribas wrote in a note to clients.
Central bank chief Ilan Goldfajn has signaled policymakers would maintain the current pace of rate cuts, but that future monetary easing would hinge on the approval of austerity reforms to ease inflationary pressures.
Brazil’s recession, the worst in its history, has left millions unemployed and bankrupted hundreds of companies, raising pressure on Goldfajn to lower rates.
Facing a grueling fiscal crisis President Michel Temer is relying on falling interest rates to exit a recession that threatens to stretch into a third year.
However, the sharp drop in inflation has sparked a debate inside his administration over whether the government’s 2019 inflation target, decided in June, should be set at a lower level. That could slow the pace of monetary easing.
Brazil introduced an inflation rate target in 1999. The current 4.5 percent goal was first adopted for 2005, originally with a tolerance margin of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points. In 2015, the government narrowed the range to plus or minus 1.5 percentage points. (Reporting by Alonso Soto; Editing by Andrew Hay)