BOJ hikes interest rate higher to 5.50%

The Bank of Jamaica hikes its overnight rate once more by 0.50 percent to 5.50 percent following the latest meeting of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC).
The decision the bank stated was “unanimously agreed to” by MPC who “also decided to continue pursuing other measures to contain Jamaican dollar liquidity expansion and maintain relative stability in the foreign exchange market.”
The Committee noted that “while inflation at May 2022 of 10.9 percent was lower than inflation at April 2022, core inflation remained elevated and headline inflation is likely to continue to breach the Bank’s target range over the next year.”
The MPC noted that its current decision reflects a cumulative increase in the policy rate of 500 bps since October 2021, which has taken the policy rate closer to the level that the Committee considers appropriate. The bank stated that “the measures are also aimed at reducing economic demand and, consequently, the ability of businesses to pass on price increases to consumers. These decisions are also expected to continue to support a relatively more stable foreign exchange market.”

Tourism arrivals 95% of 2019 for Jamaica

The Jamaica Tourist Board’s last release of tourism arrivals to the country is for March this year, nearly three months away, unacceptable for one of the country’s leading industries.

Tourism arrivals in April & May down just 5% on 2019

Data for March from the Jamaica Tourist Board shows the county welcomed 215,789 stopover visitors, some 29 percent less than March 2019. The Tourist Board is yet to release April numbers, but data out of Sangster International Airport suggests that arrivals in April exceeded those for March, to be the best month for the year to date. Indications are that tourist arrivals could be off by just 5 percent from 2019, the year before the closure of the sector back in 2020. Similarly, data indicate arrivals through the Montego Bay airport in May are 9 percent less than in April, some 5 percent lower than in May 2019.
The April and May figures mark a major about turn for the sector. January saw 131,730 stopover arrivals, down 45 percent from the 216,509 they came in 2019 the JTB data shows, with 162,882 arrivals for February, down 36 percent from the 220,046 in 2019.

BOJ is wrong as inflation keeps falling

Jamaica’s central bank (BOJ) was granted independence in 2021 but they seem to be making a mess of it. For much of last year they fiddled around telling the country that inflation was well under control and that it would remain within the band of 4-6 percent for two years, that’s before they found out that it wasn’t.
They informed the Ministry of Finance in April last year, why they could not increase interest rates as that would trim economic growth. In May, they made an erroneous statement that inflation was still getting higher when the underlying data was suggesting that it was improving and close to their target.
According to BOJ inflation was 11.8 percent in April and would get worse over the next two months.
ICInsider.com advised that they were wrong and that inflation was running close to the target since October and therefore was not getting worse but was improving.
According to the BOJ after its meetings held on 12, 13 and 18 of May 2022, “the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) noted that inflation at April 2022 of 11.8 percent was higher than the outturn at March 2022 and represented the ninth consecutive month that inflation has been above the Bank’s target range of 4.0 to 6.0 percent. While inflation is forecasted to rise further over the next two months, the Bank forecasts inflation to fall in the second half of the year, consistent with consensus forecast for a fall in commodity prices. This means that the public should start to see lower inflation rates each month, beginning in the second half of 2022, as long as tensions between Russia and Ukraine do not escalate and inflation among Jamaica’s trading partners falls.”
The latest data from Statin is once more confirming what we stated last month and casting serious doubts on the authority of the central bank.  Statin’s latest reading on inflation is 0.3 percent for May with the year or year rate down to 10.8 percent, which is down 100 basis points from the April reading. The monthly rate for May is the lowest since November last year with zero inflation and April with negative 0.5.
Since October last year, some seven months ago even before the interest rate hikes took effect, inflation was just over 6.4 percent per annum. With an average of 0.535 percent per month. For the period from December last year, the average rate is 0.547 percent per month, but since January it is running at 5.46 percent per annum.
The rate is moderating, but the country is not out of the woods as yet. There are some hopeful signs for the coming months. The rate of exchange of the Jamaica dollar is now officially J$153.45 to the US dollar compared to around $156 up recently, this will cut the cost of imports and will contribute in a major way to cutting imported inflation. The recent increase in interest rates will also slow down economic activity.
The inflation trend since October last year, suggests BOJ has overdone the interest rate hike and the rate should start the downward trek before the end of the year.

BOJ interest rate folly

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Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) unwarrantedly, increased the policy interest rate, they offer to deposit-taking institutions on overnight placements with BOJ by 50 basis points to 5 percent per annum, effective 20 May 2022, with a view to continuing slaying inflation that is well past its peak from September last year.
According to a release from the BOJ, “Inflation at April 2022 of 11.8 percent was higher than the outturn at March 2022 and represented the ninth consecutive month that inflation has been above the Bank’s target range of 4 to 6 percent. While inflation is forecasted to rise further over the next two months, the Bank forecasts inflation to fall in the second half of the year, consistent with consensus forecast for a fall in commodity prices.”
The above misses the critical point, with inflation improving since October last year with an average rate of 6.8 percent, just over the BOJ target range. The central bankers fooled around for a major part of 2021 in defending the excessively low interest rates when inflation was getting out of hand. They are erroneously focused on crawling inflation over a twelve month period rather than seeing what was taking place under their feet currently.
They are now making the mistake in the opposite direction when inflation is in decline and close to their 4 to 6 percent band. Available data shows the worse of the inflation was between May and October last year, then running at an average rate of nearly 15 percent per annum, since then, it has been just under six percent per annum, with little help from BOJ as the tighter monetary policy started in late September is just about now likely to start having the effect.
The recently harsh hike in interest rates is not the tool really meant to tame inflation but one more in keeping with reducing demand for US dollars.
According to the Central Bank, “The measures are expected to cause interest rates on deposits and loans to rise further, making savings in Jamaican dollars more attractive relative to foreign currency assets and borrowing in Jamaican dollars more expensive. They are also expected to reduce the demand for foreign currency, leading to a relatively more stable exchange rate.

BOJ interest cuts overnight rate.

The measures are also expected to cause demand in the economy to fall and, consequently, limit the ability of businesses to pass on price increases to consumers.”
It is difficult to be driving a vehicle backward over a long distance to get to one’s destination, accordingly, BOJ should not be setting policy based on what inflation was in the past but on what is likely in the future. Past inflation hikes are irrelevant to future rates once the rates are tamed, as the data now shows. Accordingly, BOJ recent big jump in rates is a mistake and should have been implemented early last year and over several months. The last three rate increases amount to applying drastic medicine after the ailment is well on the way to being cured.
This publication has written in the past disagreeing with the excessively low rate and how it was reducing the value of savers’ money while starving pensioners and small savers of badly needed income. There always is a need for a balance, either way, BOJ has gone too far and far too late.

Jamaica’s inflation down considerably

Oil prices came back from the pre-Ukrainian war prices easing inflation in Jamaica in April, with the country posting the lowest inflation rate since April last year. The year over year inflation rate is up to 11.8 percent according to Statin’s latest read on inflation.

Increased fuel prices added to inflation.

The release from the Statistical Institute of Jamaica would lead to a view that despite the negative 0.1 percent for April 2022, that inflation is still rising. That of course is false. Over the past seven months, inflation is trending well within the Bank of Jamaica’s range of 4 to 6 percent, at 5.10 percent annualised, with March being the worse month with a 1.6 percent increase, fueled a lot by the events associated with the Ukrainian war, but for that, the rate may well be lower than it currently sits.
The trend is in keeping with ICInsider.com report earlier this year, suggesting that inflation was well in control from the latter part of 2021.
The reduction in inflation in April according to the release by Statin, “was occasioned by electricity rates, which mainly resulted from lower fuel charges.”
The above decline was tempered by Statin states, by the 1.1 percent increase for the group ‘Water Supply and Miscellaneous Services Relating to the Dwelling due to increased water and sewage rates. Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages’, increased by 0.5 percent, as most classes within the division recorded higher inflation rates. There were reduced prices for Vegetables, tubers, plantains, cooking bananas, pulses, Fruit and nuts.

Jamaica’s tourism back on track

Tourism arrivals into Jamaica in April exceeded those for March this year by 4 percent, data out of the Montego Bay’s Sangster International Airport shows. The performance is even greater in percentage terms, with April having one less day than March. Significantly, the number of persons passing through the Sangster’s International Airport in Montego Bay climbed to 94.5 percent of the 2019 flows, resulting in a near-normal trade, the first time since February 2020 at the start of the Covid-19 virus outbreak.

Growth in tourism almost back to 2019 levels in April

The important Easter holidays fell around April 17th this year and the 21st in 2019; there would be no distortion to the numbers due to the holiday period when there would be more visitors to the island.
Incoming and outgoing passengers numbered 401,300 in April, up from 385,700 in March this year and 424,700 in April 2019, the last year before the covid induced fall out in the sector in 2020 data out of operators of the airport, Aeroportuario del Pacifico and published by Tourismanalytics.com show. In 2021 visitor movements through the airport numbered 157,600, or 61 percent less than this year.
The Montego Bay Airport states that the airport accounts for 73 percent of visitors to the island. It is, therefore, good reading on the overall industry movements.
Kinston’s Norman Manley Airport enjoyed an 18 percent jump in arrivals in April over March with 115,900 inward and outward movement, compared to 98,400 in March this year and 45,000 incoming and outgoing passengers in April 2021. No data is available for the Norman Manley Airport for 2019. Kingston had 139 percent more passengers in the four months to April compared to the same period in 2021 and for Montego Bay, there was a “187.5 percent increase from 462,200 in 2021 to 1,329,000 in the first four months of 2022. The 2022 total of 1,329,000 movements was 75.4% of the 1,762,700 passenger movements handled in the first four months of 2019,” Tourismanalytics.com reported.

 

Market interest rates over 8% in Jamaica

Bank of Jamaica sucked $64 billion out of the financial market as of April 29, in the form of 30-day CDs but that was $3 billion less than the April 14, auction, but the average rate obtained by investors was 8.23 percent, up from 7.92 percent at the middle of April.
The month end auction saw 184 bids up from 141 in the previous auction amounting to $35 billion, up from $19.37 billion previously going after the $17.5 billion that was offered, compared to $14.5 billion in the prior auction.
Only 78 bids were successful with the lowest rate at 7.10 percent for $1.48 billion, up from 7.00 percent for $104.9 million and the full allocation of $30 million at 8.74 percent compared to $50 million at 8.35 percent while there was partial allocation at 8.75 percent compared to 8.4 percent at the mid-April offering.
The CD rates compare with 4.5 percent for the BOJ overnight rate set at the end of March.

Remittances to Jamaica drop

remittancesJamaica experienced the first big decline in remittances since the huge surge between 2020 and 2021, with a decrease of 10 percent or US$32.7 million to US$295 million in March, this year from $327 million in 2021.
“The significant decline in remittance inflows is partly due to the earlier timing of Easter in 2021 as well as increased cash in hand remittances as travel recovers. Increased cost of living in the main source markets was also a factor,” the release from Bank of Jamaica states.
For January to March 2022, remittance inflows to Jamaica amounted to US$793 million, a decline of 1.4 percent from the first quarter of 2021.

Unemployment at record levels in Jamaica

As Jamaica’s economy continues to recover from the negative effects of Covid-19, with a sharp drop in the number of persons unemployed and the number of persons employed is 16,000 less than the previous highest previous level in January 2020, according to data released by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (Statin)
“In January 2022, there were 1,257,100 employed persons, an increase of 57,800 or 4.8 percent over January 2021”, Statin reported. But the 2022 numbers lag that of January 2020 with 1,273 million persons employed. With a full labour force of 1.34 million only 83,000 persons were regarded as unemployed as of January, the lowest on record with an unemployment rate of 6.2 percent bettering the previous lowest rate of 7.1 percent in October last year and much better than 8.8 percent for the same quarter of 2021.
While the unemployed numbers have fallen, the number of persons in the workforce declined from 1.373 million in 2020 to 1.34 million in 2022 a drop of 39,000. The job seeking rate declined to just 3.9 percent in the latest survey down from 4.9 percent in January 2020.
The largest increase in employment by occupation group was in ‘Clerks’. There were 120,500 persons employed in the occupation group ‘Clerks’ in January 2022, increased by 22,100 or 22.5 percent compared to January 2021.
Real Estate and Other Business Services had the largest increase by industry group compared to January 2021.

The Hampshire Apartments complex a Guardian Life project.

There were 126,600 persons employed in this industry group in January 2022, an increase of 25,200 or 24.9 percent versus the 2021 quarter. The second highest increase was in ‘Accommodation and Food Service Activities’, which employed 13,900 more persons.
The number of persons classified as Outside the Labour Force was 755,600 in January 2022, a decrease of 22,400 or 2.9 percent from 778,000 in January 2021.
Of import, the data would have done at a period when the tourism sector was operating at around 30 percent capacity as well as some other businesses that were yet to recover fully from the decline since 2020, as such the next reading could result in another fall in the unemployment rate and a strong possibility that total employment could get to record levels.

Jamaica visitor arrivals up 38% over February

Jamaica’s tourist industry continues to rebound, with the latest data suggesting that March this year is showing the best performance since 2019, with a decline of 22 percent from March 2019, the previous period of uninterrupted visitor arrivals to the country.

Tourism is Jamaica’s largest earner of foreign exchange.

An impressive 38 percent more passengers or 193,828 landed at the Sangster Airport in Montego Bay in March this year than the 140,368 that came in February this year and is up by 190 percent on the 66,778 incoming passengers in March 2021.
According to tourismanalytics.com, Aeroportuario del Pacifico, which manages the airports in Montego Bay and Kingston, Jamaica, saw the total number of passenger movements in March 2022 being 78.4 percent of the 491,800 handled in March 2019.
The Sangster International Airport data for the first three months of 2022, Montego Bay Airport saw total incoming passengers increase by 215 percent, to 452,496 passengers.
Kingston’s Airport handled 98,400 total passenger movements in March 2022, increasing 27 percent compared to February, with 77,500 total movements. The total number of passenger movements in March 2021 was just 36,700 passengers.
Total passenger movements the Kingston’s Norman Manly International Airport grew by 131 percent, from 115,500 in 2021 to 267,100 in the first three months of 2022.