Recent actions by the world’s central banks, at a glance
When Federal Reserve officials meet next week, they’ll face a landscape unique among their global counterparts: A steadily improving economy and the widespread expectation that they will soon raise interest rates from record lows.
In contrast, other big central banks are either cutting rates or embarking on stimulus programs to try to boost their struggling economies. Just this week, deteriorating conditions in Russia and South Korea led their central banks to announce rate cuts.
Here are steps that major central banks have taken recently:
— FEDERAL RESERVE
The Fed is moving toward raising its benchmark short-term rate from near zero, where it’s kept it since 2008. The Fed has been saying it will be “patient” in deciding when to do so. But policymakers will likely drop that word from the statement they will issue when their latest meeting ends next week. Doing so would pave the way for a rate hike, possibly in June or September. Though the annual inflation rate remains below the Fed’s target of 2 percent, the job market has continued to improve. The unemployment rate has dropped to a seven-year low of 5.5 percent, and employers added a solid 295,000 jobs in February.
— CENTRAL BANK OF RUSSIA
Russia’s central bank cut its key rate Friday by 1 percentage point to 14 percent to try to energize the economy, which appears to be sliding into a brutal recession. It was the second rate cut in as many months as officials reverse some of the sharp rate increases made in December — when they hiked them from 10.5 percent to 17 percent — to support a collapsing ruble. Higher rates tend to bolster a currency but hurt the economy by making borrowing more expensive. The central bank predicts that Russia’s economy will shrink by between 3.5 percent and 4 percent this year.
— RESERVE BANK OF INDIA
India’s central bank last week unexpectedly cut a key rate by a quarter percentage point, the second such reduction this year to lend support to government efforts to bolster the economy. The latest cut lowers the rate at which commercial banks can borrow from the Reserve Bank of India. India’s economic growth averaged about 8 percent a year in the decade ending in 2010 but slumped to about 5 percent in the following years. The move comes days after India’s Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced in the new government’s first annual budget that it would boost spending to try to jump-start Asia’s third-largest economy.
— BANK OF KOREA
South Korea unexpectedly lowered its benchmark rate Thursday to a record low of 1.75 percent in an effort to revitalize sluggish economic growth. The quarter percentage point cut was the first cut by the Bank of Korea in five months. The central bank said South Korea’s economic growth and inflation this year will be lower than expected. There are also concerns that the country could fall into deflation.
— EUROPEAN CENTRAL BANK
Interest rates: The European Central Bank kept its benchmark rate unchanged at 0.05 percent last week.
Other policies: The ECB has unleashed its 1.1 trillion euro ($1.2 trillion) stimulus program and said after its meeting last week that its actions were already boosting the eurozone economy. The central bank raised its eurozone growth forecast for this year to 1.5 percent from 1.0 percent amid signs that credit is flowing more easily. On Monday, the ECB began buying 60 billion euros ($67 billion) a month in government and corporate bonds. The purchases, with newly printed money, are intended to lower borrowing rates, stimulate lending and growth and raise the inflation rate, which is dangerously low at minus 0.3 percent.
— PEOPLE’S BANK OF CHINA
Chinese authorities have generally been cautious in tweaking monetary policy. But the People’s Bank of China has lowered its benchmark rates twice since November to try to energize a decelerating economy and ward off a politically dangerous spike in joblessness. In February, the central bank cut the rate on a one-year loan by commercial banks by 0.25 percentage point to 5.35 percent. China has set an economic growth target for this year of about 7 percent, which Premier Li Keqiang described as in line with efforts to create a “moderately prosperous society.” That’s even slower than last year’s growth of 7.4 percent, its weakest performance in nearly a quarter-century.
— BANK OF JAPAN
The central bank is spending trillions of yen (tens of billions of dollars) a month on asset purchases, seeking to spur inflation and finally end the chronic deflation that has long hampered growth. Government data this week showed that the world’s third-largest economy escaped recession in the final quarter of 2014 but grew less than first estimated as demand and wages remained weak. Extreme monetary easing has been the linchpin of the “Abenomics” economic revival strategy, along with strong government spending and sweeping reforms.
— CENTRAL BANK OF BRAZIL
Brazil’s central bank last week lifted its benchmark interest rate to 12.75 percent to try to control soaring prices. The central bank’s inflation target is 4.5 percent, with an upper limit of 6.5 percent. But consumer prices over the past year have been stuck above that ceiling. The rate hike is expected to further pressure South America’s biggest economy, which is struggling to stay out of recession.