Don't Expect BoI to Twitch as Dollar Shrinks

The dollar sank to its lowest point in more than 10 years against the shekel yesterday, losing 1.73% to settle at an official exchange rate of NIS 3.515. The Bank of Israel's largely unexpected half-percent rate cut for the month of March evidently didn't accomplish what exporters had hoped it would - substantially weaken the shekel.

The pundits are now expecting Governor Stanley Fischer to lower central bank rates by 25 basis points more for April, which would reduce the rate to 3.5%.

But manufacturers shouldn't expect miracles. Central bank chief economist Leo Leiderman doesn't think that the dollar has bottomed out just yet.

The one thing the market can count on, Leiderman stressed, is that the Bank of Israel isn't going to meddle in the forex arena: in any case the bank's concern isn't exchange rates, it's inflation.

Mounting signals of an impending U.S. recession and rising oil prices, with other problems, are weakening the dollar: the shekel's appreciation isn't a pathology that requires a cure, Leiderman said.