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March 14, 2021

Egypt currently relies on foreign portfolio inflows as a main source for foreign currency, HC expects the CBE to keep interest rates unchanged

  • HC Securities & Investment shared their expectations on the likely outcome of the MPC meeting scheduled March 18th and based on Egypt’s current situation, they expect the CBE to keep interest rates unchanged.

Head of macro and financials at HC, Monette Doss commented: “February inflation figures came in lower than our estimates of 4.9% y-o-y and 0.5% m-o-m, which we believe reflects suppressed consumer demand currently. Over the rest of 2021, we expect monthly inflation to average 0.8% m-o-m and 6.4% y-o-y accounting for possible domestic price shocks following the recent commodity price rally and possible recovery in consumer confidence following the successful rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine. Our numbers rule out domestic gasoline price increases since the current market price reflects a Brent price of USD61/barrel (as estimated in the FY20/21 government budget). We estimate FY20/21e average Brent price at USD54/barrel, as it averaged USD44/barrel in 1H20/21 while Bloomberg consensus estimates for 2H20/21 come at USD62/barrel. We, therefore, expect 2021 inflation to remain within the CBE’s target range of 7% (+/-2%) for 4Q22. On the external position front, however, we believe that Egypt currently relies on foreign portfolio inflows as a main source for foreign currency given slashed tourism revenue and low exportation activity. Hence, with treasury yield hikes in the USA as well as different emerging markets such as Turkey, we believe that the CBE has limited room to undertake further interest rate cuts in its upcoming meeting. We believe that global interest rate hikes reflected in a decline in average monthly portfolio inflows in Egyptian treasuries to USD1.25bn during January and February from USD2.29bn in 2H20. We, accordingly, expect the MPC to keep rates unchanged in its upcoming meeting. That said, we note that Egyptian 12M treasuries currently offer a real yield of 5.1% (given a nominal yield of 13.3%, 15% tax rate on treasuries’ income for American and European investors and our 2021e average inflation forecast of c6%) which is higher than Turkey’s real yield of 2.0% (given nominal yield of 15.7% on 14M treasuries, zero tax rate, and Bloomberg 2021 inflation forecast of 13.7%).

It is worth mentioning that, in its last meeting on 4 February, the Central Bank of Egypt’s (CBE) Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) decided to keep rates unchanged for the second consecutive time after undertaking cuts of 50 bps twice in its September and November 2020 meetings. Egypt’s annual headline inflation accelerated to 4.5% in February from 4.3% in the previous month, with monthly inflation increasing 0.2% m-o-m reversing a decline of 0.4% m-o-m in January, according to data published by the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS).