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UPDATE 1-Indonesia c.bank keeps rates steady as it navigates uncertainties
March 16, 2017 / 12:29 PM / 8 months ago

UPDATE 1-Indonesia c.bank keeps rates steady as it navigates uncertainties

(Adds details, economists’ comments)

* BI benchmark rate unchanged at 4.75 pct, as expected

* Indonesia’s currency, stock market up after Fed rate hike

* Some analysts see BI on hold for rest of 2017

By Hidayat Setiaji and Gayatri Suroyo

JAKARTA, March 16 (Reuters) - Indonesia’s central bank held its key policy rate unchanged on Thursday, saying it wants to maintain stability amid global uncertainties and will monitor the impact of higher U.S. rates.

Bank Indonesia (BI) kept its benchmark policy rate at 4.75 percent for the fifth consecutive meeting. All 20 analysts in a Reuters poll had forecast no change.

“The decision is in line with BI’s efforts to maintain macroeconomic and financial stability amid rising global uncertainty,” the central bank said in a statement after the U.S. Federal Reserve raised rates.

“Our position is ready for everything, whether we are forced to raise (rates) or if there is room to cut (rates),” Dody Budi Waluyo, Bank Indonesia’s executive director of economic and monetary policy, told reporters, adding that the central bank’s stance remains cautiously accommodative.

The Fed increased rates for the second time in three months on Wednesday, signalling that it was on course to raise rates again which may spark outflows from emerging markets.

Southeast Asia’s largest economy has benefitted from stronger global growth and improved commodity prices that have boosted exports and narrowed its current account deficit. But rising inflation and capital outflow pressures could present new challenges as the economy recovers.

Indonesian markets responded positively to the Fed’s decision on Thursday. The rupiah was up slightly, while the main stock index rose 1.58 percent.

HEADWINDS

BI said it was monitoring monetary policy tightening in some developed countries, the impact of rising U.S. rates on the dollar, the Brexit process and growing populism in some European countries.

At home, the central bank is keeping an eye on price pressures from government plans to remove some subsidies. Annual inflation in February was 3.83 percent, the highest in 11 months, though it remained inside BI’s target band.

BI has been hoping a series of monetary policy easings last year, including six rate cuts totalling 150 basis points, will boost economic activity this year. On Thursday, it said it expects “relatively strong” growth in the first quarter of 2017.

Economic growth last year was 5 percent, as BI predicted, but the fourth quarter pace was slightly below expectation.

Capital Economics said the economy could do with further support from the central bank but the uncertain outlook for the rupiah was likely to deter BI from loosening policy.

“Indonesia’s relatively high level of foreign-currency denominated debt makes it vulnerable to falls in the rupiah,” economist Gareth Leather said.

ANZ agreed that rates would likely be on hold for the rest of the year.

“Considering that BI is expecting growth to be firmer and intends to be proactive in inflation management, we expect it to remain on hold through 2017,” ANZ said.

Additional reporting by Nilufar Rizki and Fransiska Nangoy; Editing by Jacqueline Wong

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