Sweden’s Riksbank to hold rates, signal cut in June, Reuters poll shows

By Thomson Reuters Mar 25, 2024 | 4:45 AM

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Sweden’s central bank will keep rates at 4.00% this week and is expected to flag that it will start cutting rates in the months ahead as long as inflation remains tame, a Reuters poll of analysts showed on Monday.

After two years of rapid rate hikes, headline inflation has finally slowed to near the central bank’s 2% target after peaking at over 10%. Meanwhile, growth has ground to a halt and unemployment is rising.

All 17 analysts in the poll expected the policy rate to be unchanged on March 27, but for the Riksbank to signal a cut in May or June.

“The domestic data support a move already in May, but the question is how concerned the board is about the ramifications for the krona,” JP Morgan said in a note.

“A wait and see approach until June – when more data will be available and the Fed/ECB presumably have cut rates – could make sense.”

Ten economists saw policy easing starting in June with seven picking May.

A cut would be the first by the Riksbank since early 2016 when the policy rate hit an all-time low of -0.50%

Negative or zero rates lasted until 2022 when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sparked a surge in prices and forced the central bank to ratchet up borrowing costs at a record pace.

In February, the Riksbank said rates had now peaked and that it might start to ease policy in the first half of the year – good news for households struggling with mortgage repayments that have tripled over two years.

Rate-setters, however, remain wary of setbacks, particularly the chance of a weaker Swedish crown.

A surprise cut by the Swiss National Bank last week saw the franc weaken against the euro and the Riksbank will want to avoid policy easing leading to a similar result for the crown.

Sticking close to the timetable of the U.S. Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank would give Swedish rate-setters more confidence. Both the Fed and ECB are seen cutting in June.

With inflation benign, the economy sluggish and wage increases still moderate, analysts see further cuts once the Riksbank takes the plunge.

The median forecast is for rates to end 2024 at 3.00% and drop to 2.25% a year later.

(Reporting by Simon Johnson; editing by Niklas Pollard)