Sweden’s central bank keeps interest rate steady at zero percent

Sweden's central bank keeps interest rate steady at zero percent
Sweden's central bank has presented its latest monetary forecast. Photo: Fotograferna Holmberg/TT
Sweden’s central bank has predicted that its interest rate, which has not edged above a historic zero for over six years, will remain unchanged for three more years.

“Despite the spread of the coronavirus having increased again, the Swedish economy has developed relatively well, supported by extensive economic policy measures,” said the central bank, the Riksbank, in its latest monetary policy report on Tuesday morning.

“The economic outlook is slightly brighter now than it was in February, but the pandemic is not over, and inflationary pressures remain low. Monetary policy needs to remain expansionary to support the economy and for inflation to be close to the target of two percent more permanently,” it added.

The Riksbank said it would continue to purchase assets within a 700 billion kronor framework as previously decided, and hold the country’s key interest rate, the repo, at zero percent. It predicted, as before, that the repo rate would remain at zero until at least 2024, and said it could also cut it below zero if necessary to stimulate inflation.

The bank took the landmark decision to slash the rate below zero in February 2015, hoping that the strategy would boost inflation to raise the price of everyday goods and services which had been stagnant, and therefore improve the Nordic nation’s economic prospects. Almost five years later, it was raised from -0.25 to zero in December 2019.

Sweden’s GDP is expected to grow 3.7 percent this year, which is higher than the Riksbank’s previous forecast of 3.0, released in February, and 3.6 percent next year (lower compared to the February forecast of 3.9). It expects Sweden’s unemployment rate to land at 8.6 percent this year, and recover slightly to 7.7 percent next year.

“Towards the summer, GDP growth is expected to gear up in Sweden and abroad,” said the bank. “However, the differences between various sectors and groups on the labour market are expected to remain substantial. The Riksbank assesses that total economic activity in Sweden will approach more normal levels towards the end of the year.”

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