Sweden keeps record negative interest rate

UPDATED: Sweden's central bank (the Riksbank) is keeping its key interest rate, the repo, at a record low of -0.35 percent.

Sweden keeps record negative interest rate
Riksbank head Stefan Ingves. Photo: Bertil Ericson/TT
There had been speculation that the rate would be cut, but the bank ruled this out for the time being while indicating that it remained a consideration for the future.
However, it suggested that the rate could fall to -0.40 or 0.45 percent later in the autumn.
The Riksbank is hoping that its financial strategy will boost inflation in order to raise the price of everyday goods and services in Sweden which have been stagnant for two years. It is argued that this in turn will improve the country's economic prospects.
“Our assessment is that inflation will rise to two percent in the course of 2016. But at the same time, one must remember that this is happening in an uncertain world….Therefore we are very ready to do more if we feel we need to do so,” Riksbank head Stefan Ingves said at a press conference.
Ahead of nationwide union-led wage negotiations this autumn, the Riksbank also suggested that average salary rises of just over three percent were needed across Sweden in order for the country to reach its inflation target, a figure which is causing concern among some employers.
Carl Eckerdal, chief economist at Livsmedelsföretagen (the Swedish Food Federation), which has over 50,000 employees, accused the bank of making “questionable projections” about productivity and the global economy.
But Torbjörn Johansson, who is set to lead negotiations for The Swedish Trade Union Confederation said he had no objection to the Riksbank's financial assessment.
“It's normal. They're supposed to monitor inflation,” he told the TT news agency.

Swedish kronor. Photo: Bertil Ericsson/TT
The Riksbank first slashed interest rates below zero in February in a landmark decision. It continued to cut rates in subsequent months, with the -0.35 rate introduced in July.
Negative rates work differently to positive interest ones. Instead of borrowers paying interest to banks who lend them money and savers expecting to earn interest on their cash, banks have to pay to lend money or make an investment.
The basic idea behind negative rates is to stop organisations or people from making risky investments or transactions that could impact on the wider economy.
Thursday's decision to hold the repo at -0.35 is bad news for savers in Sweden who will continue to see no return on any nest eggs stashed in basic savings accounts. 
However, those wishing to borrow money to buy properties or shares will continue to benefit from the record low rates.
Sweden is also continuing with its version of quantitive easing, a bond buying programme, which in simple terms involves borrowing money to inject back into the economy. 
The krona strengthened against both the euro and the dollar after the rate announcement, while market rates rose slightly.
Against the euro, the krona rose by about five cents, while the rate against the dollar strengthened 3 to 4 cents.

For members


Pensions in the EU: What you need to know if you’re moving country

Have you ever wondered what to do with your private pension plan when moving to another European country?

Pensions in the EU: What you need to know if you're moving country

This question will probably have caused some headaches. Fortunately a new private pension product meant to make things easier should soon become available under a new EU regulation that came into effect this week. 

The new pan-European personal pension product (PEPP) will allow savers to take their private pension with them if they move within the European Union.

EU rules so far allowed the aggregation of state pensions and the possibility to carry across borders occupational pensions, which are paid by employers. But the market of private pensions remained fragmented.

The new product is expected to benefit especially young people, who tend to move more frequently across borders, and the self-employed, who might not be covered by other pension schemes. 

According to a survey conducted in 16 countries by Insurance Europe, the organisation representing insurers in Brussels, 38 percent of Europeans do not save for retirement, with a proportion as high as 60 percent in Finland, 57 percent in Spain, 56 percent in France and 55 percent in Italy. 

The groups least likely to have a pension plan are women (42% versus 34% of men), unemployed people (67%), self-employed and part-time workers in the private sector (38%), divorced and singles (44% and 43% respectively), and 18-35 year olds (40%).

“As a complement to public pensions, PEPP caters for the needs of today’s younger generation and allows people to better plan and make provisions for the future,” EU Commissioner for Financial Services Mairead McGuinness said on March 22nd, when new EU rules came into effect. 

The scheme will also allow savers to sign up to a personal pension plan offered by a provider based in another EU country.

Who can sign up?

Under the EU regulation, anyone can sign up to a pan-European personal pension, regardless of their nationality or employment status. 

The scheme is open to people who are employed part-time or full-time, self-employed, in any form of “modern employment”, unemployed or in education. 

The condition is that they are resident in a country of the European Union, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein (the European Economic Area). The PEPP will not be available outside these countries, for instance in Switzerland. 

How does it work?

PEPP providers can offer a maximum of six investment options, including a basic one that is low-risk and safeguards the amount invested. The basic PEPP is the default option. Its fees are capped at 1 percent of the accumulated capital per year.

People who move to another EU country can continue to contribute to the same PEPP. Whenever a consumer changes the country of residence, the provider will open a new sub-account for that country. If the provider cannot offer such option, savers have the right to switch provider free of charge.  

As pension products are taxed differently in each state, the applicable taxation will be that of the country of residence and possible tax incentives will only apply to the relevant sub-account. 

Savers who move residence outside the EU cannot continue saving on their PEPP, but they can resume contributions if they return. They would also need to ask advice about the consequences of the move on the way their savings are taxed. 

Pensions can then be paid out in a different location from where the product was purchased. 

Where to start?

Pan-European personal pension products can be offered by authorised banks, insurance companies, pension funds and wealth management firms. 

They are regulated products that can be sold to consumers only after being approved by supervisory authorities. 

As the legislation came into effect this week, only now eligible providers can submit the application for the authorisation of their products. National authorities have then three months to make a decision. So it will still take some time before PEPPs become available on the market. 

When this will happen, the products and their features will be listed in the public register of the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA). 

For more information: 

This article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News, a news outlet about citizens’ rights in the EU and the UK.