Bank set to drop rates for one more time

INTEREST rates look set to fall another 50 basis points this week to help mend a faltering economy - but the cut might be the last in the current cycle.

INTEREST rates look set to fall another 50 basis points this week to help mend a faltering economy - but the cut might be the last in the current cycle.

A half percentage point reduction will bring total cuts since December to 500 basis points and unwind the rate hikes made between June 2006 and June 2008 aimed at taming inflation.

The economy slumped into its first recession in nearly 20 years with a 25-year record contraction of 6,4percent in the first quarter, and data since then point to more bad times ahead.

Manufacturing output plunged a record 21,6percent year-on-year in April.

Exports collapsed more than 20percent in the first three months of the year, and consumers continue to suffer, with retail sales falling again in April.

"The MPC (monetary policy committee) is concentrating on growth over inflation and recent surveys actual data continue to disappoint," said Nomura emerging markets analyst Peter Attard Montalto.

Inflation, though, is becoming more of a concern for the central bank.

CPI remains sticky above the central bank's 3 to 6percent target range, prompting arguments that the 100 basis point cuts of the past four months may be at an end.

All but two of the 26 economists polled this week expect a 50 basis point repo rate cut to 7,0percent on Thursday, after the Reserve Bank's two-day policy meeting. One of the dissenters sees the reduction delayed to August.

Rates decision could be the last under Reserve Bank governor Tito Mboweni, whose contract expires on August 7 . - Reuters

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