The Central Bank of Armenia (CBA) lowered the minimum cost of borrowing in the country for a third time in as many months on Tuesday, citing a further drop in inflation and “weak” consumer demand.
The CBA’s governing board cut its refinancing rate by 0.25 percent to 8.25 percent. The two previous rate cuts were announced on February 16 and December 22.
The benchmark rate stood at 6.75 percent when the Armenian dram began weakening against the U.S. dollar in October 2014 amid falling cash remittances from Armenian migrant workers in Russia. The CBA raised it to 9.5 percent in January 2015 and 10.5 percent in February 2015, a move that helped to stabilize the Armenian currency’s exchange rate.
The Central Bank began gradually easing its monetary policy in August. The authorities in Yerevan have since reported a steady decrease in inflation.
A statement by the CBA said the national consumer price index was actually down by 1.4 percent year on year last month. It attributed the deflation to the decreased cost of foodstuffs imported to Armenia.
“In case of anticipated economic developments as well as the absence of additional internal and external risks, the CBA Board will continue to ease monetary terms,” added the statement. That could further stimulate economic activity in Armenia.
According to official statistics, the Armenian economy grew by around 3 percent last year despite a fall in domestic consumption, another consequence of the decreased remittance inflows. The World Bank forecast last month that economic growth in the country will slow down to 2.5 percent this year.
Government data indicates, however, that Gross Domestic Product increased more rapidly in the first two months of the year on the back of strong performances of the manufacturing and non-trade services sectors. The National Statistical Service (NSS) also recorded a nearly 24 percent surge in Armenian exports in January-February 2016.
The CBA said on Tuesday that these reported upswings offset the macroeconomic impact of what it described as “weak consumer demand.” According to the NSS, the total volume of retail and wholesale trade fell by around 2 percent. This might also explain why Armenian imports shrunk by over 22 percent in the two-month period.