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Hungary central bank to end bond purchases soon, governor says

Hungary central bank to end bond purchases soon, governor says

Hungary's central bank will phase out its 3.4 trillion forint($10.6 billion) quantitative easing programme soon, Governor Gyorgy Matolcsy said on Wednesday, adding that rate increases alone were not enough to rein in higher-than-expected inflation.
The National Bank of Hungary (NBH) was the first European Union central bank to start raising interest rates in June to combat growing price pressures amid a faster-than-expected recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The base rate and the one-week deposit rate (increases) are not enough (in themselves). Therefore, the National Bank of Hungary initially reduced and will soon definitely end its government bond purchase programme," Matolcsy told parliament.

The bank, which launched the programme in May 2020, has gradually scaled back the pace of its bond purchases in recent weeks, paving the way for a near-term exit from the scheme.

The NBH has raised its base rate by a combined 150 basis points since June, but economists said more aggressive rate hikes in recent weeks by the Czech and the Polish central banks increasingly made the NBH look an outlier in the region.

On Tuesday the NBH unexpectedly raised interest rates for the fourth time in just two weeks.

Matolcsy said the bank would also review its corporate bond purchase scheme to see if it compounded inflationary risks. The NBH has bought 755 billion forints worth of corporate bonds so far, roughly half the total amount assigned to the scheme.

The next regular policy meeting is due on Dec. 14 when the bank will publish updated economic forecasts, which Matolcsy said would show average inflation running at around 5% both this year and next - well above the bank's target range.

Matolcsy said the bank expected price growth to return to its 2% to 4% target range by the fourth quarter of next year.

"We must wrestle down inflation as soon as possible and as efficiently as possible," Matolcsy said. "This means that the NBH's tightening cycle, and within that, interest rate rises, will continue not just in 2021 but in 2022 as well."

($1 = 320.35 forints)

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