Activity in the Norwegian economy has fallen abruptly as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The downturn is amplified by the severe impact of the pandemic on surrounding countries and by a sharp fall in oil prices. Lower oil prices have contributed to weakening the krone exchange rate.
The uncertainty surrounding developments ahead is unusually high. Economic activity is expected to pick up as containment measures are eased, but it will likely take time for output and employment to return to the levels prevailing before the pandemic.
Low interest rates cannot prevent the coronavirus outbreak from having a substantial impact on the Norwegian economy, but can help dampen the downturn. As the situation normalises, low interest rates will support a faster rebound in activity. This may reduce the risk of unemployment becoming entrenched at a high level.
The outlook and the balance of risks imply a very expansionary monetary policy stance. In March, the policy rate was reduced from 1.5 to 0.25 percent. At the monetary policy meeting on 6 May, the Committee decided to reduce the policy rate to zero percent.
“In the Committee’s current assessment of the outlook and balance of risks, the policy rate will most likely remain at today’s level for some time ahead. We do not envisage making further policy rate cuts”, says Governor Øystein Olsen.
Changes in the policy rate take effect from the first business day after the interest rate decision is announced.