Maybank IB reiterates stable OPR call from BNM for this year

Maybank Investment Bank Bhd (Maybank IB) has reiterated its view that Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) will keep the overnight policy rate (OPR) unchanged. — Bernama pic
Maybank Investment Bank Bhd (Maybank IB) has reiterated its view that Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) will keep the overnight policy rate (OPR) unchanged. — Bernama pic

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KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 18 — Maybank Investment Bank Bhd (Maybank IB) has reiterated its view that Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) will keep the overnight policy rate (OPR) unchanged at the Monetary Policy Committee’s upcoming meeting, which is scheduled for two days starting tomorrow.

In a note, the research house said the OPR would remain at a record low level of 1.75 per cent this year after the 125 basis points (bps) cuts in 2020.

However, it opined that this was a “dovish pause”, implying that any change in the OPR this year would be cut(s) rather than hike(s), it said.

“As it is, the interest rate swap curve is now pricing in a 25bps OPR cut within the first half of 2021.

“The key reason why we are sticking to our stable OPR call this year is because there is “passive easing”, as real OPR changed to negative in 2021 versus positive in 2020.

“We forecast the return of inflation this year at +2.0 per cent versus the deflation of -1.0 per cent last year, resulting in -0.25 per cent real OPR in 2021 versus +2.75 per cent real OPR in 2020,” it said, adding that this was tantamount to -300bps fall in real OPR this year compared with just -10bps drop last year.

It noted that the real interest rate was one of the determining factors in BNM’s OPR policy.

On the other note, Maybank IB expected the daily economic losses to be smaller under the re-imposition of movement control order (MCO 2.0), at between RM0.7 billion and RM1 billion per day, compared to between RM1 billion and RM1.5 billion per day during MCO 1.0.

In an effort to mitigate MCO 2.0’s economic impact, the government has allowed five essential sectors to operate, namely factory and manufacturing; construction; services; trade and distribution; and plantations and commodities.

“We estimate that 78 per cent of the economy is operational under MCO2.0 versus 52 per cent during MCO1.0,” it said.

Maybank IB opined that the government should focus on expediting implementation of existing accommodative monetary policy, expansionary fiscal policy and stimulus measures.

It said 2021 budget deficit remained large — RM84.8 billion against RM86.5 billion in 2020, and many economic stimulus measures in 2020 had been rolled and extended on targeted basis into 2021.

This included the wage subsidies; cash handouts to low and middle-income groups; targeted loan repayment moratorium and flexible loan repayment; grants and funding schemes for micro-enterprises and small and medium enterprises (SMEs); job placements, as well as Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) withdrawals and lower workers’ EPF contributions.

At the same time, ‘under-utilised’ measures such as EPF’s employers Covid-19 Assistance Programme (e-CAP) to defer, reschedule and restructure employers’ contributions could be revived, it said.

The research firm said any new extra spending would likely come from Covid-19 Fund, where there is RM10 billion available.

“Executing the vaccination programme, which scheduled to start in February 2021, will also be key,” it added. — Bernama

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