Forint firms on interbank market

MNB

The forint was trading at 311.40 to the euro late Monday on the interbank forex market, up from final quotes at 311.90 on Friday and 311.76 on Sunday. At 311.77 to the euro early Monday, the forint moved between 310.05 and 312.26, after swings between a ten-day low at 312.44 and an eight-day high at 308.23 on Friday, near an almost two-month high at 308.09 on October 15.

The forint still rode on a pledge of the European Central Bank (ECB) to re-examine its easing policy in December which investors took as a vindication of forecasts that the bank was about to beef up its assets purchases programme.

News that dissent was growing in the US Fedʼs policy-making body in favour of postponing a rate hike beyond December also helped.

The outcome of Polish parliamentary elections on Sunday might also have benefited the forint. Hungarian assets could become more attractive as "this means the Poles will be the bad boys in the region rather than us," Budapest-based traders told Reuters.

Winner of the Sunday elections in Poland, the eurosceptic Law and Justice party (PiS) has called for more public spending, looser fiscal and monetary policy, and ran a campaign on a manifesto that could cost Polish banks more money than they made last year with new levies and hard-currency loan conversion into zlotys, policies that have partly characterised the "unorthodox" approach of the Hungarian government in the past years.

Upside of the forint is capped by strengthening expectations that Hungaryʼs central bank could restart rate cuts early next year, and by surveys that show foreign investment funds are increasingly withdrawing from Hungarian government bonds.

Although this might apparently be in line with central bank policy to raise the proportion of indigenous holdings of government debt as part of its policy aiming self-financing, the process also reflects discontent with Hungarian yields that fell lately as a result of increased demand from domestic banks. Domestic demand is largely forint-neutral, while lack of foreign demand is forint-negative.

Analysts add the central bankʼs balancing act between the need to curb the governmentʼs debt service burden and the need of maintaining outside financing is fraught with risks as foreign investors still hold more than 30% of Hungaryʼs stubbornly junk-rated debt, both forex liabilities and local currency denominated. Sinking yields make foreign investors wary, risking a void that domestic investors can only fractionally fill for lack of capital.

The forint traded at 281.90 to the dollar, up from final quotes at 283.09 on Friday and 282.95 on Sunday. On Monday, it moved between 280.86 and 283.17, after an almost one-month low at 283.81 on Friday.

It was quoted at 287.07 to the Swiss franc, up from 289.30 late Friday and 289.01 late Sunday. Its range on Monday was 286.37 to 289.70, after a nearly two-month low at 290.35 and a five day high at 285.16 both Friday intraday. Since its crash to an all-time low at 378.49 to the franc on January 15 when the Swiss central bank scrapped its cap of 1.20 to the euro, it reached the highest at 281.07 on February 26.

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