Demetrios Efstathiou is not optimistic on economic growth for countries in CEE but still believes it will be better than last years, driven by a rebound in Germany and better domestic contexts for some of the countries.
He expects Turkey, which he sees growing by 4.1%, to be the champion of growth and sees Polands gross domestic product expanding by 1.7% and Romanias by 1.6%.
The Czech Republic is expected to grow by 0.5% and Slovakia by 1% whereas Slovenia is seen shrinking by 1.5% and Croatia by 0.1%.
The Romanian leu has some advantages over other currencies in the region, Efstathiou told Emerging Markets.
We favor the RON because of the entry into the JPMorgan local currency bond index, he said.
There will be strong demand for local Romanian bonds by emerging markets real money funds. We think this will be good for the RON.
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The RON was beginning to appreciate before the process of inclusion in the JPMorgan index, which is due to last 3 months, started on March 1.
We also like the Polish zloty, Efstathiou added.
FORINT QUESTION MARK
On Wednesday, the Polish National Bank sent the zloty tumbling against the euro after it slashed interest rates by half a percentage point to a record low of 3.25%, a sharper cut than most in the market had expected; some analysts had predicted a reduction of just a quarter of a percentage point while others believed the bank would stand pat.
Efstathiou said there was a big question mark about the forint, echoing other analysts views that the arrival of former Economy Minister Gyorgy Matolcsy as the head of the countrys central bank, replacing Andras Simor, could be a negative for the currency.
There is very big unpredictability in policy, Efstathiou said.
We have unpredictability in policy with [Prime Minister Viktor] Orban in government and we used to have predictability in policy with the central bank under Simor, but now we have unpredictability in policy at the central bank as well, which makes Hungary a very risky country to be involved in right now.Despite the better prospects for growth in Turkey, the Turkish lira is likely to weaken over the year as the current account deficit widens, said Efstathiou, who expects the TRY to depreciate between 3 and 5 percentage points against a euro/dollar basket by the end of the year.
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