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Singapore policy tightened as inflation dents growth

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The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), which uses foreign exchange as its main policy tool, allowed the local currency to appreciate by re-centreing the midpoint of the policy band up to its prevailing level. It also revised up the inflation estimates this year.

SINGAPORE: Singapore’s central bank unexpectedly tightened monetary policy, its second surprise move this year, as rising inflation fanned the risk of economic contraction.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), which uses foreign exchange as its main policy tool, allowed the local currency to appreciate by re-centreing the midpoint of the policy band up to its prevailing level. It also revised up the inflation estimates this year.

The monetary policy action follows the economy flatlining in the quarter ended June as retail trade and transport sector activity shrank from the previous three months.

Singapore’s currency rose as much as 0.7% against the dollar, the biggest intraday gain since May. It traded at 1.3957 per dollar as of 9.30am local time.

“There will be no change to the slope and width of the band,” MAS said in the statement.

“This policy move, building on previous tightening moves, should help slow the momentum of inflation and ensure medium-term price stability.”

The policy decision – announced shortly after second-quarter data showed zero economic growth due mainly to a 0.9% contraction in the trade and transportation subgroup within services – follows the monetary authority’s preferred core inflation gauge rising to the highest since December 2008.

MAS expects the rate of inflation to stay elevated in the months ahead, after the core consumer price index accelerated to 3.6% in May.

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The action “is clearly in response to upside inflation risk,” said Khoon Goh, head of Asia research at Australia and New Zealand Banking Group.

“The timing of today’s off-cycle move was influenced by the recent weakening in the Singapore dollar, as it would have added to inflation pressure.”

Economist Tamara Henderson said: “The unexpected loss of momentum suggests the risk of a contraction in the third quarter as global growth slows and as gains fade from the city-state’s reopening.

“We now see significant downside risk to our projection of a 3.9% expansion in 2022.”

The central bank yesterday bumped its inflation forecasts, seeing the key core measure it tracks to rise between 3% to 4% this year from 2.5% to 3.5% seen previously.

It expects the all-items measure to surge between 5% to 6% from the earlier forecast range of 4.5% to 5.5%.

Yesterday’s gross domestic product release showed growth came in at 4.8% from a year ago, slower than the median estimate for a 5.4% expansion.

The advance second-quarter numbers look at the economy’s performance based mainly on data from April and May, and the official forecast for full-year growth is due to be revised next month.

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