SINGAPORE'S central bank is likely to ease monetary policy further next month as lower-than-expected inflation and output data suggest the economy is slowing and facing growing deflationary pressures, a Reuters poll showed.
Seven out of 11 economists and currency analysts surveyed expected the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to re-centre its band for the Singapore dollar's exchange rate level or widen the band in its regular biannual meeting next month.
The central bank manages monetary policy by letting the Singapore dollar rise or fall against the currencies of its main trading partners within an undisclosed trading band based on its nominal effective exchange rate.
"We now expect MAS to further ease policy at its mid-April meeting, given weaker growth prospects and lower inflation risks," said Chua Hak Bin, an economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, in a research note.
"MAS will likely re-centre the band lower to the prevailing level of the S$NEER (nominal effective exchange rate)," he said.
On Jan 28, MAS unexpectedly eased monetary policy by reducing the slope of its policy band in an unscheduled meeting.
The Singapore dollar yesterday slid to 1.3657 per United States dollar at one point, its weakest since August 2010, after China's central bank cut interest rates on Saturday, underscoring expectations of further easing across Asia.
The local dollar lost 0.6 per cent last month, its eighth consecutive monthly depreciation, Thomson Reuters data showed. The data goes back as far as 1981 and it is the longest losing streak since then.
So far this year, it has depreciated 2.8 per cent against the US dollar.
Industrial production in January rose 0.9 per cent from a year earlier, data showed on Thursday, far below a forecast of a 3.7 per cent expansion in a Reuters poll.
The disappointing number came even as the Chinese New Year holiday fell in January last year. This year, the holiday took place last month.
The consumer price index fell 0.4 per cent last month from a year earlier, the largest drop since December 2009, separate data showed.
Still, some economists said it would be premature to predict more stimulus as the economy is not facing recession risks.
The Government has also taken an expansionary fiscal stance, while inflation could pick up later this year, they added.
Singapore is expected to post a budget deficit of $6.7 billion in the 2015-16 fiscal year with spending up, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said when the Government unveiled the Budget last week.
Nomura economists said: "We continue to see a relatively low likelihood of further easing at the next policy review by MAS next month."