Forint retreats further on interbank market

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The forint was trading at 306.67 to the euro late Monday on the interbank forex market, down from 305.14 late Friday and 306.17 late Sunday. At 306.14 to the euro early Monday, the forint moved between 305.75 and 307.13, a four-day low. It was flat over last week after gaining 1.46% the previous week.

In thin trade in absence of US markets closed for a holiday, worries for Greece and Ukraine, and still abundant forecasts for a nearside base rate cut in Hungary chipped further away at the forint's strength seen in the last couple of weeks.

"Stay short HUF against a 50%-50% basket of EUR and USD," RBS recommended on Monday. It cited its forecast that Hungary's central bank will resume its easing cycle in March with a cautious 10bp rate cut to the current all-time low 2.1% policy rate. RBS sees the easing cycle totaling between 30bp and 50bp eventually.

In light of the latest Hungarian inflation data, which surprised to the downside, Nomura sees "a risk" for even more than 50bps in Hungarian rate cuts in total, starting in March. The house now expects headline disinflation to bottom in March and turn positive from November onward, versus its earlier call for September. Nomura reduced its forecast for average headline CPI inflation for this year to minus 0.7% from its earlier call for a positive 0.3%, and for 2016 to positive 2.4% from positive 3.2%. It sees end-2015 CPI at 1.3% versus its earlier forecast for 2.6%, and end-2016 CPI at 2.6% versus 3.6%.

Barclays maintained that Hungary would start to cut its policy rate in March and bring it down by 60bps to 1.5% over the course of three months.

Meanwhile, fresh data out Monday on Hungary's widening current account surplus, the up-coming quantitative easing of the ECB as well as talk on an expected upgrade of Hungary from junk to investment grade by rating agencies in the wake of the government's pledge a week ago to cut the special bank tax from next year, apparently protect the forint from steeper falls, with secondary market yields of Hungarian sovereigns rising only 1-3bps along the curve on the day by late afternoon except the 6-month tenor that actually fell 1bp. But Raiffeisen warned in a note on Monday that an upgrade could be expected only within a year of the bank tax cut coming through.

The forint traded at 268.92 to the dollar, down from 268.00 late Friday and 268.62 late Sunday. On Monday, it moved between 267.83, off a one-week high at 266.97 on Friday intraday, and 269.37, a four-day low.

It was quoted at 289.32 to the Swiss franc, down from 288.22 late Friday and 288.24 late Sunday. Its range on Monday was 287.94 to 289.56. On Thursday last week, at 287.21, it reached the highest since its crash to an all-time low at 378.49 on January 15, when the Swiss central bank scrapped its cap of 1.20 to the euro.

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