The spread of the coronavirus infection throughout the world deteriorated global business sentiments. Stock market indicators fell, prices on commodity markets changed drastically, and most global currencies depreciated. Those were the currencies of both our geographical neighbors, Poland, Turkey, Russia and others, as well as, the currencies of developed countries as Australia, Norway, and the UK.
Sentiments deteriorated also on the Ukrainian market. The coronavirus infection outbreak spiked demand for foreign currency in Ukraine. However, the NBU smoothed out excessive exchange rate fluctuations and conducted FX intervention on selling currency on the interbank FX market. This cooled down the heated demand caused by psychological rather than economic factors.
NBU FX market policy remains the same throughout the recent years. The regulator does not interfere with the market trends, but rather alleviates excessive fluctuations. For example, last year, the situation on the FX market was favorable: supply exceeded demand, and the NBU bought the surplus for reserves to raise a security buffer. At the same time, when the regulator bought currency, it did not impede the market trend of hryvnia strengthening but rather smoothed out fluctuations, made the developments more gradual, so that both business and the public could plan their transactions. In general, last year, the NBU bought from the market almost USD 8 billion. When the developments move in another direction, the regulator does not try to fix the hryvnia exchange rate, but conducts interventions on selling foreign currency and alleviates the exchange rate fluctuations. So, NBU FX market policy is consistent and independent from the exchange rate trends.
If necessary, the NBU will continue FX interventions to smooth out fluctuations. The NBU has no reason to either introduce currency restrictions or radically change the policy.
First, the NBU has sufficient reserves, i.e. about USD 25 billion.
Second, the regulator expects the conclusion of a new IMF program in the following weeks after the Verkhovna Rada votes for the drafts required. IMF funding also gives way for other official funding sources from the EU and the World Bank.
Third, the NBU has another hidden reserve in the form of a compensation paid out by Gazprom to Naftogaz. These funds will gradually land in the international reserves.
Fourth, exports generate stable FX inflows to Ukraine. The impact of coronavirus on the foreign trade is mostly neutral. Some drop in prices for Ukrainian export goods is compensated by the growth of shipments and lower energy prices, i.e., oil and gas, which are Ukraine’s main import items.