Singapore central bank’s first tightening in 6 years comes with trade warning

The Monetary Authority of Singapore said it would slightly increase the slope of the Singapore dollar’s policy band from zero percent previously, while keeping the width and mid-point of the band unchanged. (Reuters)
Updated 13 April 2018

Singapore central bank’s first tightening in 6 years comes with trade warning

SINGAPORE: Singapore’s central bank tightened monetary policy for the first time in six years on Friday, saying the city-state’s economy is expected to continue growing steadily even as it acknowledged risks from a trade spat between the United States and China.
The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said it would slightly increase the slope of the Singapore dollar’s policy band from zero percent previously, while keeping the width and mid-point of the band unchanged.
“The measured adjustment to the policy stance takes into account the uncertainty in macroeconomic outcomes presented by ongoing trade tensions,” the central bank said.
The policy tightening was in line with expectations and came as official data showed the city-state’s economy expanded 4.3 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, matching market expectations and the fastest pace since a near four-year high of 5.5 percent in the third quarter of last year.
The return of global growth in recent years has prompted some Asian central banks to follow in the footsteps of the US Federal Reserve in gradually shifting away from extremely accommodative monetary settings.
They include Malaysia’s central bank, which tightened policy in January and the Bank of Korea, which raised interest rates in November.
The MAS’s tightening takes it away from a “neutral” stance adopted two years ago, a setting it has resorted to in the past when the global economy deteriorated, including an 18-month period from October 2008 during the global financial crisis.
The Singapore dollar briefly rose by as much as 0.3 percent after the policy decision, but quickly pared its gains. It was last steady on the day at S$1.3119 per US dollar.
With the US-China trade dispute posing risks to Singapore’s trade-reliant economy, some analysts were skeptical the MAS would tighten again at its next decision in October. One even said the latest tightening could be reversed going forward if risks materialize.
“I don’t think there will be a further tightening in October... As of now, they are being cautious and not overly wanting the Singapore dollar to appreciate,” said Francis Tan, an economist for United Overseas Bank.
The central bank added that Singapore’s economy should continue on a steady expansion path in 2018, but also pointed to potential risks from a US-China trade rift.
“An escalation of the US-China trade dispute remains possible, and if it occurs, will have significant consequences for global trade,” the MAS said.
The world’s two largest economies have threatened each other with tens of billions of dollars’ worth of tariffs in recent weeks, spurring worries of a full-scale trade war that could damage global growth and roil markets.
Although the MAS did not give a specific figure, analysts said the Singapore dollar’s policy band was probably increased to a modest annual appreciation rate of 0.5 percent.
“We were surprised the MAS would tighten so soon given what is going on in the world,” said Sue Trinh, Head of Asia FX Strategy for RBC Capital Markets in Hong Kong.
“If the trade war turns nasty, the MAS may find itself quickly reversing its modest tightening stance,” Trinh said.
The MAS said Singapore’s 2018 GDP growth should come in slightly above the middle of the official forecast range of 1.5-3.5 percent.
Core inflation should come in within the upper half of the MAS forecast range of 1-2 percent in 2018, while headline all-items inflation is projected to be in the upper half of the 0-1 percent range for the whole of 2018, the central bank added.
The MAS manages monetary policy through exchange rate settings, rather than interest rates, letting the Singapore dollar rise or fall against the currencies of its main trading partners within in an undisclosed policy band.
Twelve of 19 analysts in a Reuters survey had predicted the MAS would tighten monetary policy this month, with the remaining seven expecting policy to be kept unchanged.


Emirates launches airbridge between Dubai, Lebanon emergency relief 

Updated 14 August 2020

Emirates launches airbridge between Dubai, Lebanon emergency relief 

  • Customers of Emirates will be able to donate cash or pledge their Skywards Miles to the airline for the aid
  • Emirates SkyCargo will also provide 20 percent reduction on air freight transportation charges for approved shipments

DUBAI: UAE national carrier Emirates SkyCargo plans to ramp up its freighter operations to Lebanon with 50 flights to deliver emergency relief in the wake of the Beirut port blast that killed nearly 200 people.
Customers of Emirates will be able to donate cash or pledge their Skywards Miles to the airline for the aid, state news agency WAM reported.
The Emirates Airline Foundation will coordinate shipments of urgent food, medical supplies with NGO partners to ensure donations directly help those affected on the ground.
Emirates SkyCargo will also provide 20 percent reduction on air freight transportation charges for approved shipments, underscoring its commitment to expedite emergency relief efforts to Beirut.
“Today, the world is banding together to stand in solidarity with Lebanon, providing urgent relief and immediate recovery support to those affected by this tragic disaster,” Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Airline & Group, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, said. 
“Emirates supports the UAE’s ongoing humanitarian efforts to support Lebanon and is committed to bolster its global emergency response to ensure that it can support organizations which provide urgent care, shelter, food and medical support to the Lebanese people,” he added. 
Emirates said that it had dispatched several charter flights carrying food, clothing and medical supplies donated by various grassroots organizations in the UAE to Lebanon.