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RIKSBANK

Central bank in surprise rate rike

Sweden's central bank, the Riksbank, surprised markets today by raising its main interest rate, the repo rate, by 0.25 percentage points to 4.25 percent.

The Riksbank said in a statement that Sweden’s economic outlook and inflation prospects remained largely the same as in December.

“Economic activity in Sweden remains good and the labour market is strong. GDP growth will slow down over the year and the increase in employment will slacken. Resource utilization in the economy will nevertheless be higher than normal,” said the Riksbank in a statement.

The move caught analysts and markets off guard, with most having expected rates to remain unchanged.

The krona shot up against both the dollar and the euro on the news, and finanical market professionals were quick to criticize the Riksbank.

“It’s very unexpected. I was surprised. There are slow downs in the world economy, Swedish export markets, and wage growth. And despite all this, the Riksbank thinks there is reason to raise interest rates,” said Jörgen Appelgren, cheif economist with Nordea.

The bank said that it had taken into account the recent turmoil in the world economy but had come to the same conclusion as in December.

“The repo rate needs to be raised to 4.25 per cent and the assessment is that it will remain at roughly the same level over the coming year. But there is considerable uncertainty in this assessment.”

ECONOMY

Sweden’s Riksbank raises rates above zero for first time since 2014

Sweden's central bank has increased its key interest rate to 0.25 percent, marking the first time the rate has been above zero for nearly eight years.

Sweden's Riksbank raises rates above zero for first time since 2014

In a press release announcing the move, the bank said that it needed to take action to bring down the current high rate of inflation, which it predicts will average 5.5 percent in 2022, before sinking to 3.3 percent in 2023.

“Inflation has risen to the highest level since the 1990s and is going to stay high for a while. To prevent high inflation taking hold in price and wage developments, the directors have decided to raise interest rates from zero to 0.25 percent,” it said. 

The Riksbank, which is tasked by the government to keep inflation at around two percent, has been caught off-guard by the speed and duration of price rises.

Just a few months ago, in February, it said it expected inflation to be temporary, predicting there was no need to increase rates until 2024.

The last time the key inflation rate was above zero was in the autumn of 2014. 

In the press release, the bank warned that the rate would continue to increase further in the coming years. 

“The prognosis is that the interest rate will be increased in two to three further steps this year, and that it will reach a little under two percent at the end of the three-year prognosis period,” it said. 

According to the bank’s new future scenarios, its key interest rate will reach about 1.18 percent in a year, and 1.57 percent within two years. 

In a further tightening of Sweden’s monetary policy, the bank has also decided to reduce its bond purchases. 

“With this monetary policy we expect inflation rates to decline next year and from 2024 to be close to two percent,” the bank wrote. 

Annika Winsth, the chief economist of Nordea, one of Sweden’s largest banks, said the rate hike was “sensible”. 

“When you look at how inflation is right now and that the Riksbank needs to cool down the economy, it’s good that they’re taking action – the earlier the better. The risk if you wait is that you need to righten even more.” 

She said people in Sweden should be prepared for rates to rise even further. 

“You shouldn’t rule it out in the coming year. Then you’ll have a once percentage point increase which will go straight into fluctuating mortgage rates.” 

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