Forint firms on interbank market


The forint was trading at 311.85 to the euro late Friday on the interbank forex market, up from final quotes at 314.14 on Thursday. Also at 314.14 to the euro early Friday, the forint moved between 311.77, a nearly seven-week high, and 314.44, after a six-day low at 316.53 late on Wednesday.

The forint is down 1.14% versus the euro from final quotes last Friday, after rising 0.51% over the week before. It is up 1.20% from the end of last year, after it improved 0.35% last year, lost 6.12% in 2014, and eased 1.95% in 2013.

The Hungarian currency flexed some muscle against the euro for a fifth day in line. The trend accelerated since Thursday when the European Central Bank hinted at further easing in March, and the euroʼs fall versus the dollar quickened.

This weekʼs government paper auctions also supported as they suggested a cautious return of foreign investors who quasi deserted the market since last autumn, deterred then by yields which fell to unattractive levels as a result of central bank policies. The relative popularity of Hungarian assets might also reflect some reallocation from Poland, downgraded by Standard & Poorʼs a week ago.

Analysts expect the National Bank of Hungary (NBH) to leave its base rate unchanged next Tuesday, and stay pat on the longer term as well if the forint does not appreciate too much, and serious disinflation does not warrant a move. However, some more unconventional easing measures can not be excluded in March, analysts add.

"We do not expect a change in the base rate, but the central bank will likely reaffirm its dovish bias by talking down the long end of the interest rate curve [of local-currency government bonds]," Bank of America Merrill Lynch said in a note on Friday.

"Only a lasting and unexpected currency appreciation could change the monetary policy councilʼs stance" for keeping rates unchanged in the coming months, Royal Bank of Scotland added.

Hungary will likely keep (the base rate) unchanged at least until the next parliamentary elections in spring 2018, Citigroup said. The big risk are falling prices, a result of the oil market slump. Citi now sees 2016 inflation at 0.8% versus the central bankʼs forecast of 1.7%. If inflation falls further, or if the forint strengthens to 300-310 versus the euro, the central bank may be prodded into a new round of rate cuts. "We would not fully exclude that given the expected additional European Central Bank easing," Citigroup said.

The forint traded at 288.22 to the dollar, up from final quotes at 289.33 on Thursday. On Friday, it moved between 287.82 and 290.33, after a one-week low at 291.27 late on Thursday, and a more than two-week high at 285.80 early last Friday. On November 27, it fell to a third more than fifteen-year low within a month at 295.76.

The forint was quoted at 284.04 to the Swiss franc, up from 286.98 late Thursday. Its range on Friday was 284.03, a more than seven-week high, to 287.49, after a one-week low at 289.19 Wednesday intraday, and a more than six-week high at 286.33 last Friday intraday. Since its crash to an all-time low at 378.49 to the franc on January 15, 2015, when the Swiss central bank scrapped its cap of 1.20 to the euro, it reached the highest at 281.07 on February 26, 2015.


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