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March 27, 2023

HC believes the MPC is to increase the policy rates

  • HC Securities & Investment shared their expectations on the likely outcome of the MPC meeting scheduled March 30th. Based on Egypt’s current situation, they expect the CBE to increase the policy rates.

Financials analyst and economist at HC, Heba Monir commented: “ We expect the MPC to continue tightening policy rates by around 200 bps in its 30 March meeting to tame increasing inflation rates, which we expect to continue rising, peaking at 35.9% by July, on our numbers, before it decelerates to 30.3% by December. We anticipate that March and the coming months’ inflation figures will reflect; (1) the early March c7-11% increase in octane gasoline prices and the c20% increase in heavy fuel oil (mazut) prices for all industries except food and electricity generating sectors; (2) the expected increase in household electricity effective 1 July; (3) the recent liberalization of the prices of essential food commodities like rice; (4) the shortage in local poultry supply due to problems related with animal feed prices and availability, affected by the Russia-Ukraine war, and (5) the continuing EGP devaluation which reached c20% y-t-d. As a result of the USD shortage, Egypt’s banking sector net foreign liabilities (NFL), including the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE), widened to USD21.6bn in January 2023 from USD20.0bn in December 2022. Excluding the CBE, the banking sector’s NFL widened to USD13.0bn from USD11.7bn in December 2022. In light of the inflationary pressures, the USD shortage, and Egypt’s need to keep the carry trade attractive, we calculate a required 12M T-bills rate of 25.18%, which considers soaring Egypt’s 1-Year CDS to 1,419 from 670 at the beginning of February. Foreign holdings in Egyptian T-bills increased by USD2.4bn from December 2022 to USD10.4bn by the end of January 2023. The latest 12M T-bills auction recorded an average yield of 19.19% (accounting for a 15% tax rate for US and European investors), which offers a real yield of negative 2.31%, given our inflation expectation of 21.5% in March 2024, solidifying our view of a needed increase in policy rates. We estimate the real yield to turn to a positive1.33% based on our calculated required after-tax 12M T-bill rate and expected inflation of 20.1% for April 2024.

On a more positive note, deposits not included in the official reserves increased for the third consecutive month, increasing in February by c19% m-o-m to USD2.61bn, yet it still remains below its level of USD9.18bn a year earlier, and net international reserves (NIR) inched up for the sixth consecutive month by 0.4% m-o-m to USD34.3bn in February, while dropping 16.2% y-o-y.”

It is worth mentioning that, in its 2 February 2023 meeting, the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) decided to keep the benchmark overnight deposit and lending rates unchanged at 16.25% and 17.25%, respectively after it hiked policy rates by 800 bps in 2022 and by 500 bps in 4Q22 alone. Egypt’s annual headline inflation accelerated to 31.9% y-o-y in February from 25.8% y-o-y in the previous month, according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) data. Monthly prices rose 6.5% m-o-m in February 2023 compared to an increase of 4.7% m-o-m in the previous month, mainly due to increasing food and beverage prices by 14.4% m-o-m compared to an increase of 10.1% m-o-m in January. On the global front, the US Federal Reserve raised interest rates on Wednesday by 25 bps, bringing its total rate hikes y-t-d to 50 bps after it increased interest rates by 425 bps in 2022.