In a press conference held on Wednesday, HSBC's chief economist and co-head of global research for Asia, Fred Neumann, announced an upward revision of the bank's inflation forecast for the Philippines. The bank now expects the country's inflation to average 5.9 percent in 2023, up from its previous estimate of 5.5 percent, and 3.7 percent in 2024, up from 3.6 percent.
This revised forecast is slightly higher than the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas' (BSP) recent adjustment to 5.8 percent from 5.6 percent for 2023 and to 3.5 percent from 3.3 percent for 2024. The BSP's adjustments were prompted by stronger-than-expected inflation in August, rising oil and food prices, and the depreciation of the peso.
HSBC also anticipates that the BSP will deliver another 25-basis-point hike before the end of this year due to persistent inflation pressures. Inflation averaged at 6.6 percent after accelerating to 5.3 percent in August from 4.7 percent in July, well above the BSP’s target range of two to four percent.
The BSP has been one of the most aggressive central banks in the region, raising key policy rates by a total of 425 basis points between May last year and March this year in an effort to curb inflation and stabilize the peso.
Despite this aggressive approach, Neumann expects a gradual easing from the BSP over the next two years due to persistently high inflation. He predicts one more rate hike this year before a cut in key policy rates by 50 basis points in the second half of next year and another cut by 100 basis points in 2025.
Neumann also noted that these changes are likely to occur concurrently with the US Federal Reserve's expected interest rate cuts. However, he ruled out the possibility of dramatic cuts from either the BSP or the Fed.
In terms of economic growth, HSBC has revised its gross domestic product (GDP) growth projections for the Philippines to 4.8 percent from 5.3 percent for this year and to 5.2 percent from 5.6 percent for next year. These revised forecasts are lower than the six to seven percent for 2023 and 6.5 to eight percent for 2024 projected by the country's economic managers.
Lastly, HSBC expects the peso to hover around the 57:$1 level due to the country’s wide current account deficit and ballooning trade gap. After strengthening back to the 53:$1 level, the local currency is now approaching the 57:$1 handle due to aggressive rate hikes by the Fed and a downgrade of the US credit rating by Fitch Ratings.
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