Stagnant growth pushed Singapore’s central bank to a neutral policy of zero percent appreciation in the exchange rate Thursday, a rate last seen during the global financial crisis.
The unexpected easing of monetary policy by the Monetary Authority of Singapore was in response to the trade ministry reporting the same day that Singapore’s gross domestic product in the first quarter grew 0% on an annualized basis, compared with the previous three months. This matched consensus estimates.
The move drove lower both the local dollar and currencies across Asia-Pacific. The Singapore dollar fell 0.9% to 1.3627 per US dollar late Thursday.
“The MAS is delivering a strong message by returning policy to the post-Great Financial Crisis settings,” Sean Callow, a Sydney-based currency strategist with Westpac Banking Corp, told Bloomberg. “The surprise move indicates a gloomy outlook for regional trade.”
As Asia’s financial hub, the Singapore move could lead central banks across the region to reassess their policy.
“The Singapore economy is projected to expand at a more modest pace in 2016 than envisaged in the October policy review,” the central bank said. “Core inflation should also pick up more gradually over the course of 2016 than previously anticipated.”
Whether the effect is felt across the region will be first seen next week, when Indonesia’s central bank is due to announce its monetary policy decision. Earlier on Thursday, Bank Indonesia lowered its daily reference rate for the local currency, the rupiah, by the most in two months.
In a report Tuesday, the International Monetary Fund predicted Singapore’s economy would grow 1.8% this year, compared with the government’s projection of 1% to 3%.
Singapore’s services industry, which makes up about two-thirds of the economy, contracted an annualized 3.8% in the first quarter from the previous three months, the first decline since the first quarter of 2015. Manufacturing and construction rebounded strongly in the quarter, expanding 18.2% and 10.2% respectively.