Norway’s central bank can probably sit out the global currency war that is now at its doorstep. Even a potential intervention in neighboring Sweden is unlikely to boost the Norwegian krone as a deepening rout in Brent crude drags down the currency of western Europe’s biggest crude producer. “At the end of the day, the Norwegian krone is oil- fixated,” said Daragh Maher, head of currency strategy for HSBC in New York. “Really, the issue is whether the oil price can find a bottom.”
With oil prices still wobbling around $50, Norway is in danger of a recession that could drive its benchmark interest rates, already at a record low, to zero. That’s what economists at Svenska Handelsbanken AB in Oslo say as they warn that “recessionary risks are significant.” The central bank in September cut rates to 0.75 percent and signaled more than a 50 percent chance for a third reduction since the drop in oil prices accelerated, about a year ago. Handelsbanken sees three cuts next year, bringing the benchmark to zero by the end of 2016. “The Norwegian economy will now experience a deeper downturn than during the financial crisis, with output expected to stay below its potential for longer than it did last time,” Kari Due-Andresen and Knut Anton Mork, economists at Handelsbanken, wrote in their latest report.
A decision by the Norwegian minority government to start making withdrawals from the country’s sovereign fund could mark a “radical change” for the region. Leading expert Professor Jon Kleppe, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, said the sovereign fund has risen from NOK 6300billion at the start of the year to NOK 7000billion. He said the increase was largely down to the weakening of the Norwegian Kroner next to the US dollar.