First in Europe:
Norway raises interest rates
Norway on Wednesday became the first European country to raise
interest rates this year in the global financial crisis, which it
managed to overcome thanks to its huge oil revenues.
The Norwegian central bank raised its key demand deposit rate by a
quarter of a point to 1.50 percent, the first step in what is expected
to be a gradual tightening in monetary policy.
"Activity in the Norwegian economy has picked up more rapidly than
expected," central bank governor Svein Gjedrem said.
Norway thus became the first European country to raise interest rates
after economies around the world were hit by a sudden and severe
downturn in the last quarter of last year.
Australia in early October and Israel in late August raised rates as
well after their economies fared better than most during the meltdown.
The beginning of the global crisis is widely considered to have been
marked by strains in the fund management sector and special intervention
by the European Central Bank in early August 2007.
The crisis then took a radical turn for the worse in September 2008
with the collapse of US investment bank Lehman Brothers.
But Norway, buoyed by oil earnings and government stimulus measures,
emerged relatively unscathed from the worldwide downturn, which brought
the global economy to a virtual standstill.
After sustaining a brief bout of recession, the country returned to
growth in the second quarter of the year, with most of its indicators
now flashing green.
Mainland gross domestic product, which excludes oil revenues and
maritime transport, is officially forecast to grow 2.1 percent next
And at 2.7 percent of the working population, the Norwegian
unemployment rate is the lowest in Europe.
Several other factors would also support a rise in rates, notably
heightened consumer spending, housing prices that have returned to
pre-crisis levels and a fiscal policy likely to be slightly expansionist
next year, according to the government. The central bank on Wednesday
hinted at a further hike in the coming months.
It said that between now and 2010, the benchmark rate should come to
between 1.25 and 2.25 percent, or a median level of 1.75 percent that
would suggest additional tightening.
"The key policy rate should... be raised gradually," said Gjedrem,
the bank governor.
For Nordea analyst Katrine Boye, cited by Dow Jones Newswires, "the
rate path projection didn't surprise us that much in the short-term."
She said that Norwegian financial authorities "are projecting a hike
at more or less every second meeting between now and end 2010." AFP