Picture: THINKSTOCK
Picture: THINKSTOCK

THE US Federal Reserve was unlikely to raise interest rates until 2015, country risk company IHS’s chief economist, Nariman Behravesh, said at the company’s Africa Economic Outlook conference on Tuesday.

Mr Behravesh said that while monetary policy was accommodative in the US, it was "still too tight" in other countries.

Financial markets, particularly those in emerging markets, including South Africa, fell significantly in June following the Fed’s announcement that it would probably start reducing its bond-buying programme, or quantitative easing (QE).

Higher interest rates in the world’s biggest economy would make assets there more attractive and lead to capital flight from emerging markets.

Mr Behravesh said the company believed there was a 40% chance the Fed would slow its $85bn-a-month bond-buying stimulus measure later in 2013 and a 60% chance of this happening early in 2014.

"We don’t think the Fed will raise rates until the beginning of 2015," Mr Behravesh said.

Emerging markets responded differently to the flight of capital in June following the QE tapering scare.

Countries such as Brazil have raised interest rates while others have stopped monetary easing in favour of unchanged stances.

The capital flight from emerging markets had turned into "pro-cyclical tightening of monetary policy" by some central bankers, according to Mr Behravesh.

The local Reserve Bank is expected to join those emerging market central banks that have decided to leave interest rates unchanged. The Reserve Bank’s monetary policy committee meeting got under way on Tuesday and will release a statement on Thursday, announcing its decision on interest rates.

Mr Behravesh said that the stage was set for a rebound in the global economy towards the end of 2013 into 2014 led by economic recoveries in the US, Germany and the sub-Saharan Africa region, among others.

"Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the bright spots in the global economy," he said.

The International Monetary Fund forecasts global economic growth at 3.1% in 2013, improving to 3.8% in 2014.

IHS expects softer commodity prices to "bottom out" in the third quarter of 2013, although this would not be the case for oil prices.

Oil prices, Mr Behravesh said, would be driven mainly by "geopolitics" coupled with still-sluggish global demand.

IHS estimated that the turmoil in the Middle East had added between $15 and $20 to the price of a barrel of Brent crude oil.

"Unconventional energy revolutions" such as oil and gas exploration in the US would probably offer "downward pressure" on oil prices in the medium to long term.