Major central banks hold rates steady as markets eye rapid cuts

Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell speaks during a press conference following a closed two-day meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee on interest rate policy at the Federal Reserve in Washington, U.S., December 13, 2023. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque © Thomson Reuters

LONDON (Reuters) – Markets think it’s all over. After a lengthy and historic monetary tightening campaign to battle high inflation, major central banks are keeping high interest rates steady for now as traders price in rapid cuts ahead.

FILE PHOTO: The Federal Reserve building in Washington, U.S., January 26, 2022. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: The Federal Reserve building in Washington, U.S., January 26, 2022. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo© Thomson Reuters

U.S. Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell, said on Wednesday, “we’ve done enough.” The European Central Bank and the Bank of England on Thursday left rates on hold, but the BoE pushed back against rate cut bets, while Norway surprised with a rate hike.

FILE PHOTO: A general view of the Bank of England (BoE) building in London, Britain, August 4, 2022. REUTERS/Maja Smiejkowska/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: A general view of the Bank of England (BoE) building in London, Britain, August 4, 2022. REUTERS/Maja Smiejkowska/File Photo© Thomson Reuters

Major rate setters have hiked borrowing costs by 4,015 basis points (bps) so far this cycle, with Japan the holdout dove.

Here’s how they stand, in terms of the scale of rate hikes in this cycle.


The Fed unleashed a fresh wave of optimism in markets on Dec. 13 by holding its key rate at 5.25% to 5.5% and releasing officials’ surprisingly dovish projections for 75 bps of cuts in 2024.

Powell noted inflation was easing faster than expected and rate cuts were coming “into view”, all but confirming a period of aggressive monetary tightening by the world’s most influential central bank is over.

Markets raced ahead of Fed officials’ forecasts to predict the funds rate would be around 150 bps lower by next December.


The Reserve Bank of New Zealand held its interest rate at a 15-year high of 5.5% in November but surprised markets by upwardly revising its forecast for the peak in rates to 5.69%.

Markets bet the central bank is finished with hikes, with easing priced in as early as May.


The BoE pushed back against market rate-cut speculation on Thursday, leaving its key rate at a 15-year high of 5.25% and said rates would need to stay high for an “extended period.”

Markets trimmed rate cuts bets following that comment but still price in over 100 bps worth of easing next year.


The Bank of Canada on Dec. 6 left its benchmark interest rate on hold at a 22-year high of 5% but left the door open to another hike, saying that financial conditions have eased and it was still concerned about inflation.


The ECB is expected to be one of the first major central bank to start cutting rates next year as the economic outlook sours.

It held its deposit rate steady at 4% on Thursday and signalled an early end to its last remaining bond purchase scheme, wrapping up a decade-long experiment in hoovering up debt across the euro zone.

Markets price in roughly 140 basis points worth of rate cuts in 2024.


The Norges Bank raised its key rate by 25 bps to 4.50% in a decision that surprised markets, adding it would likely stay put for some time from here.

While core inflation in November at 5.8% was below the central bank’s 6.1% forecast, the Norwegian crown has traded consistently weaker than it expected, potentially stoking inflation.


The Reserve Bank of Australia held interest rates steady in December at 4.35% and markets expect rate cuts from mid-2024.

Australian inflation slowed unexpectedly to 4.9% in October and the economy barely grew in the third quarter as increased mortgage costs hit consumer spending.


Economists and traders think Sweden’s central bank is likely done raising rates, after holding them at 4% in November.

High borrowing costs have pressured commercial real estate firms. The IMF expects Sweden’s economy to have contracted this year.

Swedish inflation slowed to 3.6% year-on-year in November, down from 10.2% in December 2022.


The Swiss National Bank on Thursday held interest rates at 1.75% for a second straight meeting after inflation stayed within the central bank’s 0% to 2% target for a sixth consecutive month in November.

Economists see the SNB holding rates until September, although money market pricing shows investors are eyeing cuts from March.


The Bank of Japan’s concludes a two-day meeting on Tuesday and Governor Kazuo Ueda will aim to recognise inflationary pressures without suggesting an imminent end to negative interest rates.

More than 80% of economists expect the BOJ to end this long-held policy next year, with many tipping a move in April.

The BOJ in October changed a 1% cap on Japan’s 10-year bond yield to a loose “upper bound,” enabling long-term borrowing costs to rise gradually.

Source: Reuters/ Reporting by Naomi Rovnick, Harry Robertson, Alun John, Yoruk Bahceli, Samuel Indyk and Dhara Ranasinghe Graphics by Kripa Jayaram, Pasit Kongkunakornkul, Riddhima Talwani, Sumanta Sen and Vineet Sachdev; Editing by Dhara Ranasinghe and Tomasz Janowski