Norway leaves rates unchanged

Bank governor says rates will likely remain unchanged for the "period ahead."
By Daniel J. Graeber  |  Sept. 22, 2016 at 9:24 AM
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OSLO, Norway, Sept. 22 (UPI) -- The central bank for the oil-rich economy in Norway said Thursday it was keeping its key policy rate unchanged, reflecting a steady level for crude oil prices.

Executive board members at Norge Bank left the benchmark rate unchanged at 0.5 percent.

"Our current assessment of the outlook suggests that the key policy rate will most likely remain at today's level in the period ahead," Bank Gov. Oystein Olsen said in a statement.

In defending the move, the bank said oil prices are relatively at the same point they were last year, but the growth prospects for activity for some if Norway's trading partners have weakened since the summer.

An August report Norway's central bank said the decline in oil prices since late 2014 has been the primary factor in the increasing rate of unemployment. The bank said the pressure is unlikely to be temporary and that some workers tied to the oil industry will likely have to find jobs in other industries.

On the rate decision, the bank said there are opposing forces pulling on economic momentum for one of Europe's top suppliers of oil and natural gas.

"Inflation in Norway has been unexpectedly high in recent months," the bank said. "At the same time, there are signs that growth in the Norwegian economy is picking up at a slightly faster pace than projected in June."

Norway's rate decision mirrors that of the U.S. Federal Reserve. Fed Chair Janet Yellen said in her opening remarks at a conference Wednesday that economic growth has picked up for the U.S. economy, though business investments were on the decline in part because of weakness in the energy sector.

"The energy industry has been hard hit by the drop in oil prices since mid-2014, and investment in that sector continued to contract through the first half of the year," she said.

Total production of oil and natural gas liquids was down almost 10 percent, the Norwegian government said, though some of the decline was not market related. At least one field in Norwegian waters was closed for maintenance.

August oil production averaged about 1.6 million barrels per day, which the government said was the same as last year and 9 percent above what was initially forecast by the government.

Weak economic growth in the latter half of 2016 for Norway has replaced an economic standstill, with gains in home-building and exports expected to provide a lift through early 2017.

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