The cost of money is rising for Russians well ahead of any potential central bank move to lift interest rates for the first time in almost four years amid concern the U.S. may impose fresh sanctions.
State-run Sberbank PJSC, which holds almost half of all Russian savings, is increasing rates for ruble accounts for the first time since 2014. It will also pay consumers more to keep dollars on deposit to stanch an outflow of funds. One of the country’s five largest mortgage lenders, Raiffeisenbank JSC, is charging more for home loans starting this month.
From sausages to gasoline, inflation is on the march, opening a debate about the possible timing of monetary tightening. Growth in factory-gate prices, an early indicator of inflation, has been in double digits for the last three months. Now a weaker ruble is making imported goods more expensive.
But with the central bank’s benchmark on hold at 7.25 percent since a quarter-point cut in March, rates adjusted for inflation remain among Europe’s highest. While that may give policy makers some breathing room, Governor Elvira Nabiullina has previously said all options will be on the table in case of “a sharp strengthening in pro-inflationary risks.”
“The weakening of the ruble this month increases the chances of a rate hike, but I don’t see the central bank being in too much of a rush to do anything yet,” said Paul Fage, a strategist at TD Securities in London. “ Real rates remain very high, and I don’t think it really needs to do anything right now, but obviously further ruble weakening could force their hand.”