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Philippines central bank chief signals return to easing cycle in 2020

The head of the Philippine central bank signaled a potential return to monetary policy easing next year, with rate cuts of up to about 50 basis points under consideration, Bloomberg News reported.

In a Dec. 13 interview with the media outlet, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Benjamin Diokno said the central bank could begin cutting rates again as early as February 2020 or as late as the second quarter.

Diokno also said he plans to reduce the reserve requirement ratio for commercial banks and nonbank financial institutions to single digits by 2023, his last year in office, from 14% currently.

The BSP on Dec. 12 held its lending rate unchanged amid a benign inflation environment, maintaining its "prudent pause" from a series of rate cuts totaling 75 basis points since May.

Diokno said halting the bank's easing spree would allow policymakers to assess the impact of those rate cuts and the lowering of the reserve requirement.

Separately, the BSP projects current account deficit of $8.4 billion, representing 2.1% of GDP, in 2020, wider than the expected $5.6 billion shortfall, or 1.5% of GDP, for 2019.

Exports are estimated to grow 4.0% in 2020 compared with an estimated increase of 1.0% this year. Imports are projected to rise 8.0%, faster than the estimated 2.0% growth rate for 2019.