March 29, 2019 / 7:38 AM / a month ago

Singapore central bank to end tightening run as economy sags: Reuters poll

Office workers walk to the train station during evening rush hour in the financial district of Singapore March 9, 2015. REUTERS/Edgar Su/Files

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore’s central bank is likely to keep its monetary policy stance on hold in the first of its semi-annual meetings due next month, a Reuters poll of economists found, as inflation eases and the growth outlook for the export-reliant economy dims.

Twelve of 15 economists in the poll said they expected the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to leave its exchange-rate based policy unchanged in April, pausing after two tightening moves last year.

The poll was conducted between March 21 and March 27, and was based on direct responses to Reuters queries as well as some research notes.

“Given the moderation in core inflation, combined with the relatively broad-based deterioration in the growth outlook, we believe that the MAS is likely to keep the slope of the SGDNEER band unchanged,” Jingyang Chen, an economist with HSBC, said.

The MAS manages monetary policy by changes to the exchange rate, rather than interest rates, letting the Singapore dollar rise or fall against the currencies of its main trading partners within an undisclosed policy band based on its nominal effective exchange rate (NEER).

It can adjust policy by changing the appreciation rate, mid-point, or width of the Singapore dollar’s policy band. The MAS increased the slope of the policy band at both of its 2018 meetings, its first tightening move in six years.

Singapore’s core inflation rate - a measure closely watched by central bankers - eased to a nine-month low in February, while its economy grew at its slowest pace in more than two years in the fourth quarter of 2018.

Weakening growth momentum for Singapore’s open economy - a high-tech manufacturing base and transportation hub - underscores the risks to Asia’s export economies from a slowdown in China and Beijing’s trade war with Washington.

“With the major central banks essentially on ‘patient for longer’ mode, the MAS can likely wait as well,” OCBC economist Selena Ling said.

Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan and John Geddie; Editing by Shri Navaratnam

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