- Monetary Board holds emergency meeting on public and bank holiday
- Cuts policy rates by 25 basis points; reduces Statutory Reserve Ratio on rupee deposits of commercial banks by 1%
- Says easing of monetary policy is to extend urgent support to economic activity amidst COVID-19 pandemic
- Economy begun to turn around from early 2020 as result of fiscal and monetary stimulus and return of business confidence but says it is increasingly evident that domestic economic activity during the year would be impacted by COVID-19
- Calls on banks to pass on benefit of cumulative reduction of 75 basis points in policy interest rates and SRR reduction to customers without further delay
Despite the special holiday, the Monetary Board met at emergency session yesterday to assess and respond to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic globally and locally, taking key decisions to cushion impact and stimulate economic activity.
The Central Bank said the Monetary Board at an urgent meeting to review its monetary policy stance on 16 March, decided to reduce the Standing Deposit Facility Rate (SDFR) and the Standing Lending Facility Rate (SLFR) of the Central Bank by 25 basis points to 6.25% and 7.25%, respectively, with effect from 17 March.
It also decided to reduce the Statutory Reserve Ratio (SRR) on all rupee deposit liabilities of licensed commercial banks (LCBs) by 1.00 percentage point to 4.00%, with effect from the current reserve maintenance period.
“The Board arrived at this decision in consideration of the urgent need to support economic activity with the rapid global spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and its possible further spread in Sri Lanka,” a Central Bank statement said.
It said Sri Lanka’s economic growth, which has remained subdued for an extended period of time until end 2019, has begun to turnaround as a result of fiscal and monetary stimulus and the return of business confidence after the Presidential Election.
“However, it has increasingly become evident that domestic economic activity during the year 2020 would continue to be affected through various channels by the spread of the pandemic,” the bank said.
Prior to yesterday’s decision, the Central Bank, during the year thus far, has taken a number of measures to support the revival of domestic economic activity, in the context of well anchored inflation expectations and the absence of demand driven pressures on inflation.
These include the reduction of policy interest rates of the Central Bank by 50 basis points effective 30 January, facilitating the implementation of the credit support package for borrowers in both performing and non-performing categories and the implementation of a credit guarantee scheme to revive non-performing advances, while maintaining the dialogue with the financial market to ensure market lending rates continue to decline in line with the Monetary Law Act Order No. 02 of 2019.
The Central Bank also assured the financial market of the provision of liquidity as necessary to counter any impact arising from the evolving situation. It said yesterday’s decision will complement measures that are already in place.
The Central Bank reemphasised the need for all financial institutions led by licensed commercial banks to ensure the full benefit of the cumulative reduction of 75 basis points in policy interest rates thus far during the year as well as the reduced cost of funds through the reduction in SRR is reflected in market lending rates without further delay.
In addition, the Central Bank requests financial institutions to refrain from engaging in speculative activity which could lead to panic in the financial market.
The Central Bank said it has put in place well-tested business continuity arrangements, which will be triggered as and when required to prevent any disruption to cash and electronic transactions and ensure the timely settlement of liabilities of the Government and the Central Bank.
It is also working closely with the Government to ensure coordinated fiscal and monetary policy responses to mitigate the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, the Central Bank will work with the Government to raise the required funding for the Government smoothly to tackle the current exceptional situation.
“The Central Bank will closely monitor global and domestic market developments and take further policy, regulatory and operational actions as necessary, while monitoring activities of each financial institution to ensure smooth functioning of the financial market and the transmission of the Central Bank action to the economy in order to ensure that those who are in need of urgent support receive the required timely assistance,” the statement added.
Crude oil falls below $ 30 as coronavirus spreads; Fed move fails to calm markets
LONDON (Reuters) – Brent and U.S. crude fell below $30 on Monday as emergency rate cuts by the U.S. Federal Reserve and its global counterparts failed to tame markets and China’s factory output plunged at the sharpest pace in 30 years amid the spread of coronavirus.
Brent crude LCOc1 was down $4.03, or almost 12%, to $29.82 a barrel by 1339 GMT. The front-month price had risen $1 earlier in the session.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude CLc1 was at $28.63, down $3.10 or almost 10%.
To combat the economic fallout of the pandemic, the Fed on Sunday slashed its key rate to near zero, triggering an unscheduled rate cut by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand to a record low as markets in Asia opened for trading this week.
The Bank of Japan later stepped in by easing monetary policy further, while Gulf central banks also cut interest rates. However, the measures failed to calm investors, and stock markets weakened again.
Meanwhile China’s industrial output fell by a much larger than expected 13.5% in January-February from the same period a year earlier, the weakest reading since January 1990 when Reuters records began.
U.S. President Donald Trump said on Friday that the United States would take advantage of low oil prices and fill the nation’s emergency crude oil reserve, in a move aimed to help energy producers struggling from the price plunge.
IHS Markit said on Monday the world is looking at the “possible buildup of the most extreme global oil supply surplus ever recorded”, and that U.S. crude oil production could fall by 2 to 4 million barrels per day over next 18 months.
Oil prices have also been under intense pressure on the supply side, as top exporter Saudi Arabia ramped up output and slashed prices to increase sales to Asia and Europe.
This month the Organization of the Petroleum Countries and Russia failed to extend production cuts that began in January 2017, aimed at supporting prices and lowering stockpiles.
Saudi Aramco is likely to sustain higher oil output planned for April in May, Chief Executive Amin Nasser said on Monday, signaling the top oil producing company is prepared to live with low oil prices for a while.
An OPEC and non-OPEC technical meeting planned for Wednesday in Vienna has been called off as attempts to mediate between Saudi Arabia and Russia after the collapse of their supply cut pact made no progress, sources said on Monday.