An interest rate cut from South Korea Thursday takes the number of central banks that have stepped up their monetary easing this year to 24 and that number is likely to rise, analysts say.
South Korea’s decision to cut its key rate by 25 basis points to a record low of 1.75 percent follows a rate cut by Thailand’s central bank on Wednesday and easing by central banks in China, India and Poland since March began.
Russia and Malaysia are among the countries that economists say could join the growing list of central banks that have slashed borrowing costs since the start of the year.
The main reason for such a flurry of action, they add, is a backdrop of falling or low inflation which is highlighting the need to boost lackluster economic growth.
“I find it interesting that people say that these rate cuts are surprises and we heard that when it happened in Australia, when it happened in India, Indonesia and today in Korea,” Joshua Crabb, head of Asian Equities at Old Mutual Global Investors, told CNBC Asia‘s “Squawk Box.”
“But if we look at inflation, it is coming down dramatically, real rates are high and the economy is weak so it makes a lot of sense that we see these cuts and we will see that continue to happen,” he said.
Thanks in part to the sharp fall in oil prices since last June, many economies are facing falling or low inflation rates.
Data on Thursday for instance, showed Spain’s consumer price index rose to 0.2 percent in February from -1.6 percent the month before. In Indonesia, annual inflation stood at 6.29 percent last month, down from 6.96 in January.
“Fundamentally, the easing around the world is driven by inflation turning out lower across the board,” Anatoli Annenkov, senior European economist at Societe General, told CNBC.
“There is a debate about currency wars, monetary easing to push currencies lower, but fundamentally this is a story about growth and inflation,” he added.
Kelvin Tay, managing director and regional chief investment officer, Southern APAC at UBS Wealth Management told CNBC Asia’s “Street Signs” that he thought Malaysia could be the next central bank to move in Asia although that would depend on a weak currency stabilising first.
Analysts said central banks in India, China, South Korea and Indonesia had the scope to move again. Switzerland, which cut rates in January, and Sweden, which moved last month, were also seen as likely to ease again.
In Europe, there was also focus on Russia where the central bank meets this Friday.
Russia is facing its first year of recession since 2009 in the aftermath of the global financial crisis as a fall in oil prices and Western sanctions for intervention in Ukraine take a toll on the economy.
A recent recovery in oil prices and the battered Russian rouble means there is an opportunity for Russia’s central bank to deliver a growth-boosting rate cut, analysts say.
“Russia is in a very different situation to other central banks that have eased rates this year,” said Annenkov at Societe General. “Its economy is very weak and so it is more of an isolated case.”