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Taiwan central bank likely to announce another mild rate hike

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TAIPEI — Taiwan’s central bank is expected to raise its policy rate again this week at the same mild pace as before, according to economists polled by Reuters, but as exports and inflation slow it may hold that rate steady next year to support the economy.

The central bank is likely to lift the benchmark discount rate by 12.5 basis points to 1.75% at its quarterly meeting on Thursday, according to the median forecast of 23 economists surveyed. At the last meeting, in September, the bank also raised it by 12.5 basis points, to 1.625%.

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One economist surveyed expected the central bank to stand pat.

Looking ahead, the median forecast for those polled was for the central bank to keep the rate at 1.75% for all of 2023.

The central bank has repeatedly said it will tighten monetary policy this year, in line with counterparts elsewhere, with inflation a key decider.

Taking lawmaker questions on Monday, central bank governor Yang Chin-long said the focus of this week’s meeting would be “relatively simple” – inflation, and the domestic impact on what is happening with global economic growth.

Taiwan’s inflation, never as bad lately as it has been in the United States and Europe, has been slowing since August.

Its consumer price index was 2.35% higher in November than a year earlier, the lowest inflation reading in nine months.

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Woods Chen, head of macroeconomics at Yuanta Securities Investment Consulting in Taipei, said that, with inflation still above 2%, the central bank would probably go for another rate rise.

“I suspect a halt to rate rises will be something for next year,” Chen said.

Taiwan is a major semiconductor producer, making chips used in everything from cars and iPhones to supercomputers.

Exports last month plunged by the fastest rate in almost seven years, and the government has made gloomy predictions about the near future.

While the economy last year grew 6.45%, the fastest rate since it expanded 10.25% in 2010, it is expected to grow much more slowly this year, hit by COVID-19 lockdowns in China, global inflation woes and the impact of the war in Ukraine.

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Taiwan’s statistics agency last month lowered its gross domestic product forecast for 2022 to 3.06%, down from August’s 3.76% forecast. It also trimmed the outlook for exports for the year and said they would contract in 2023.

Fitch Ratings last week forecast growth in Taiwan would ease to 2.1% in 2023 from 3.2% this year, due largely to weaker external demand.

The central bank will give its revised forecast for 2022 economic growth on Thursday. In September, it predicted a 3.51% expansion, down from a previous prediction of 3.75%.

It will also give its an updated forecast for next year’s economic growth, having predicted 2.9% in September. (Poll compiled by Anant Chandak and Carol Lee; Reporting by Liang-sa Loh and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Bradley Perrett)

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