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de Adrian N Ionescu , 15.1.2018

The National Prognosis Commission (CNP) has an optimistic view of the 2018 economic indicators, while major players in the banking field are much more cautious and sometimes have more severe outlooks because of the pressure of the interest rates and the depreciation of the national currency.

The major difference between the two perspectives is that while banks finance both the economy and the budget deficit, CNP provides the arguments on which the Government has built the state budget and about which the financiers of the economy raise some questions.

Official figures: National Prognosis Commission’s version

The National Prognosis Commission estimates an economic growth of 5.5% for 2018.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is expected to reach RON 907.9 billion and GDP / capita 46.617 lei.

Annual average inflation will be 3.1%, following an estimated figure of 2.6% for 2017.

The average exchange rate would decrease to 4.55 lei/euro (compared to 4.56 lei/euro estimated for 2017), according to the optimistic forecast of the CNP.

Unemployment rate may be 3.9% in 2018, according to the state’s official forecast.

Forecasts that banks consider

The pace of the economic growth is set to decline to 4% in 2018, according to banks’ estimates. Even though GDP in nominal terms is comparable to the value calculated by CNP, the basis of the 2018 data is different.

Analysts from BCR Erste expect a real change of 4.1% in GDP, to RON 909 billion but bankers from BCR expect a higher growth in 2017 (7.1%) compared to the one estimated by CNP (6.1%, with a GDP value of RON 842.5 billion).

In turn, Banca Transilvania also forecasts an economic growth of 4.1% in its macroeconomic scenario for 2018, and ING Bank Romania expects 4.7% but after a GDP growth of 7.2% in 2017.

The European Commission estimated a 4.4% GDP growth, the same as the International Monetary Fund.

The World Bank estimates an increase of 4.1% in 2018, while the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development forecasted a GDP growth of 4.2%.

Banks expect higher unemployment rates: between 4.8% (Banca Transilvania) and 5.1% (BCR-Erste).

Exchange rate and interest rate estimated by banks: very different from official forecast

While estimates on inflation are comparable to those of the CNP, banks’ differences are substantial in the case of the average exchange rate.

Banca Transilvania, known for more balanced forecasts, sees the average exchange rate in 2018 at 4.66 lei / euro, or 11 bani higher than the CNP estimate.

The average exchange rate could be even higher for BCR-Erste, at least 4.65 lei/euro. BCR-Erste proposes a level of 4.65 lei/euro, at the end of the first two quarters of next year, 4.70 lei/euro in September and 4.73 lei/euro at the end of 2018.

In fact, banks have different estimates than the CNP also for the foreign trade.

Banca Transilvania sees a growth in exports of 6.7% as compared to 2017 (CNP: + 7.6%) and in imports of 7.1% (CNP: + 8.7%).

The pressure on the exchange rate will be accompanied by the pressure on interest rates and banking analysts expect that the National Bank of Romania will apply several increases in the policy rate due to the inflationary pressures related to the wage increases.

BCR-Erste expects the National Bank of Romania to increase its monetary policy interest rate four times, up to 2.75% at the end of 2018 due to the inflationary pressure caused not only by the base effect but also the household consumption.

The first increase, in the first quarter of 2018, could be from 1.75% now to 2.25%.

Banca Transilvania’s forecast for BNR’s policy rate is more severe: 3.5%.

Erste estimates an increase in the ROBOR average 3-month interbank interest rate from 2.15% in Q1/2018 to 2.45% in Q2 and 2.70% in the rest of the year.

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