Global rate-hike marathon may keep going in Nordics

Stockholm: Central banks in the United States, eurozone and Britain are done raising interest rates for now, but their peers across Europe’s north aren’t so sure.

Last Thursday, Sweden’s Riksbank could deliver yet another quarter-point salvo, taking its key rate to 4.25% to fight inflation – or not, depending on who you listen to.

Economists and investors are divided on the outcome, with some arguing that Swedish officials may opt to expand asset sales instead, along with a signal that they may hike again early next year.

The split may very well extend to the Riksbank’s board, which has been unanimous on all but one rate decision since Erik Thedeen became governor in January.

Norway’s central bank – the first in the Group of 10 major currency jurisdictions to start raising rates – may take some comfort from declining expectations on price hikes as well as wage growth. Even so, more tightening is possible at its Dec 14 decision, not least after a recent acceleration of underlying inflation.

Compared with counterparts such as the US Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank and the Bank of England, the Nordics are particularly focused on foreign-exchange pressures.

Swedish policymakers have seen some of their work to rein in inflation undone by relentless krona weakening that makes imported goods more expensive. While the currency has strengthened recently, it remains vulnerable to deterioration.

Similarly in Norway, it’s weakness in the krone, along with recent consumer-price data, that’s led some economists to revise calls from unchanged rates to an increase. “A December hike is fully on,” Nordea Bank Abp analysts Dane Cekov and Kjetil Olsen predicted recently.

On Wednesday, Iceland’s central bank is anticipated in its own survey of market agents to keep the benchmark at 9.25%. — Bloomberg

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