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Fed hike sparks flurry of central bank activity

The U.S. usually leads the way for the world and the Federal Reserve is viewed as no exception. However, low inflation and weak growth elsewhere mean that despite a barrage of policy meetings after the Fed's news, only a few other central banks are following suit in raising interest rates.

Here's a look at those that are tightening policy in the wake of the Fed's 25 basis point (bp) hike to its target funds rate and those that are steering a different course.


Gulf nations rush to hike

Several Gulf nations raised interest rates shortly after the Fed announced its hike, with Saudi Arabia the first off the mark on Wednesday. The region's top-oil producer, plus Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain all hiked by one-quarter of a percentage point, according to Reuters.

These Arab states have currencies that are tied to the U.S. dollar and are part of the Gulf Cooperation Council, whose other members are Oman and Qatar. As a fixed exchange rate diminishes the impact of monetary policy, countries with pegged currencies tend to shadow the interest rates of the nation to which the currency is pegged.

Hong Kong raises base rate

As in the Gulf, Hong Kong tracks U.S. interest rates because its currency is pegged to the dollar. Consequently, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority lifted its base rate by 25 basis points to 0.75 percent on Thursday.

"With the U.S. Fed starting to hike rates, Hong Kong faces yet another disconnect with U.S. monetary policy. Only this time, the implications are negative for the economy and asset prices," Duncan Wooldridge and Silvia Liu, economists at UBS, said in a report on Thursday.

Taiwan surprises with cut

By contrast, the Central Bank of the Republic of China (Taiwan) cut interest rates by 12.5bp on Thursday, to 1.625 percent.

The move was unanticipated, with the bank expected to hold rates at 1.75 percent.

"Global economic performance has been worse than expected recently," the central bank said in a statement, according to Reuters. It added that "cutting the policy rate… will help promote economic growth."

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In the rest of Asia-Pacific, Indonesia's central bank held its benchmark interest rate at 7.5 percent, as expected.

The Philippines also held rates unchanged, at 4 percent for overnight borrowing and 6 percent for overnight lending.

"The (Philippines) Monetary Board has considered the potential impact of the recent monetary policy adjustment in the U.S. on global financial conditions, noting that keeping monetary policy settings steady at this juncture would allow (the country's central bank) some room to continue to assess evolving global economic conditions and calibrate its policy tools as appropriate," the bank said on its website on Thursday.

Norway holds fire

Opinions were split as to whether the Norges Bank would make a 25bp cut to its key policy rate or hold fire. It opted for the latter on Thursday, keeping rates at 0.75 percent.

Governor Oystein Olsen reiterated that the base rate might be cut in the first six months of next year.

"The effects of the fall in oil prices and the decline in oil investment on the Norwegian economy are gradually becoming evident… If economic developments are broadly in line with projections, the key policy rate may be reduced in the first half of 2016," he said in a statement on Thursday on the Norges Bank's website.

Watch out for: Chile, Mexico, Japan

The central banks of Mexico and Chile will meet later on Thursday, with the Bank of Japan meeting overnight.

The Banco de Mexico is seen imitating the Fed with a 25bp hike to its overnight rate target of 3.0 percent. However, opinions are divided as to whether the Banco Central de Chile will follow suit.

"Since inflation remains above target (in Chile) and the labor market does not show signs of slack, we believe the central bank will implement another hike, then likely make a longer pause next year, as growth might remain sluggish," analysts at Barclays said in a report on Thursday.

The Bank of Japan, meanwhile, is expected to hold rates and maintain the current pace of its massive monetary stimulus program.

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