Czech Rate Hawks Make Last Big Hike as Inflation Risks Mount

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The Czech central bank delivered what may be the last in its series of massive interest-rate increases, but mounting inflation risks pose a dilemma for newcomers who will take control of the policy board next month, Bloomberg News reported. Policy makers lifted the key rate by 125 basis points to 7% on Wednesday, in line with most analyst forecasts and bringing cumulative tightening to 6.75 percentage points over the past year. Still, the koruna weakened because the decision was smaller than market bets for a hike of as much as 150 basis points. The central European nation is grappling with 16% inflation, the fastest in three decades, driven by surging global commodity costs and domestic pressures from overheated labor and property markets. Restoring price stability soon is an “absolute priority” and is necessary to ensure the country’s long-term prosperity, Governor Jiri Rusnok said after his last policy meeting. “I can’t really commit the future board and its new members to what they will or will not do,” he told reporters in Prague. “I personally believe that, baring some black-swan event, further steep, dramatic hikes won’t be necessary. But should the situation escalate, they can’t be ruled out.” Read more.