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Norway's central bank keeps rates on hold, sees slower tightening  

Key Points
  • Key policy rate unchanged at 0.75 pct, as expected
  • Next rate hike seen in March 2019, as expected
  • Bank lowers rate path ahead
  • Banks told to hold more buffer capital

A pedestrian passes the closed entrance to the headquarters of Norges Bank, also known as the central bank, in Oslo, Norway, on Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014. 
Krister Soerboe/Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Norway's central bank left its main interest rate unchanged at 0.75 percent on Thursday, as expected, but said it would tighten rates at a slightly slower pace than previously planned amid concerns about the prospects for the global economy. 

The bank said it aimed to raise rates in March next year, in line with its forecast from September, when it raised rates for the first time in seven years.

"The most important message is that Norges Bank repeats a rate increase in March and another one later in 2019," said Danske Bank Chief Economist Frank Jullum. "The rate path is adjusted a little bit downward in 2020 and 2021, affected by global events." 

The decision by the central bank was unanimous. The crown, up 0.1 percent versus the euro before the announcement, rose as high as 9.7085, up half a percent on the day. It was also 0.4 percent ahead versus the dollar at 8.5334. 

Norges Bank highlighted how rising protectionism through 2018 and political uncertainty had weakened growth prospects internationally. 

"Persistent trade conflicts and turbulence surrounding political processes in Europe may dampen growth among trading partners more than projected," the bank said, citing in particular how a no-deal Brexit could increase turbulence on financial markets.  

Norway’s finance minister: Concerned about risk of a trade war

At the advice of Norges Bank, the finance ministry simultaneously increased the amount of capital banks must hold on their balance sheets, increasing the counter-cyclical buffer requirement to better protect banks from a potential downturn. 

"They have revised down the rate path on a slightly weaker outlook abroad and weaker oil price. They have also witnessed higher inflation, which in the short term is compensated by a weaker crown," said Kjetil Olsen, chief economist at Nordea Markets.

"The decision is driven by the global outlook. There is a bit more of uncertainty in the world, and that's the main reason for lowering the rate path going forward."