Cheaper food prices lower retail inflation in February

14 Mars, 2019, 16:34 | Auteur: Auguste Feret
  • Retail inflation climbs to 2.57%, factory output decelerates to 1.7%

While retail inflation rose to a four-month high of 2.57 per cent during February, mainly due to higher food prices, it was still well below the RBI benchmark.

The retail inflation number for February 2019 is the highest since October 2018 when it stood at 3.38 per cent, the data released by the Central Statistics Office under the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) showed. Higher interest rates and faster economic growth in the US compared with other developed economies have helped push the dollar higher. "The Fed is on pause for the foreseeable future".

On a monthly basis, the consumer food price index moved up by 0.15 per cent in February against January 2019.

WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S. consumer prices rose 0.2 percent in February, pushed up slightly by higher gasoline and housing costs even as the prices for autos and clothing slumped. The CPI increased 1.6 percent on a year-on-year basis in January.

The upward surge is likely to be welcomed by policymakers, who were alarmed by the 19-month low inflation rate of 1.97 per cent recorded last month. A decline in core goods prices (-0.2% m/m) was the culprit behind the softness in core inflation.

Prices of milk-based products rose marginally by 0.92 per cent, while egg became dearer by 0.86 per cent, and meat and fish prices recorded a rise of 5.92 per cent. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the CPI and the core CPI edging up 0.2% in February.

The core PCE price index increased 1.9 per cent on a year-on-year basis in December after a similar gain in November. Inflation expectations held by the public one year and three years from now fell, both to readings of 2.8% from 3% in January, the bank said Monday.

In another set of data released by the government, industrial production or factory output slipped to 1.7 per cent in January 2019 from 2.4 per cent in December 2018 on account of slowdown in the manufacturing sector.

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First-quarter growth estimates have been cut to as low as a 0.2 percent annualized rate. However, with capacity utilisation still being low at 74.8 per cent (in the second quarter of FY19) and with the ensuing general elections, there is unlikely to be a spur in investment demand in the economy, he observed.

While it's always good for consumers when prices remain stable, the best news in the report is the influence on the Fed's interest rate policy. The central bank also changed its policy stance to "neutral" from "calibrated tightening".

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell had made clear on Friday that he and his colleagues are in no hurry to adjust interest rates as growth slows and inflation stays subdued.

The Fed raised interest rates four times previous year but since December policymakers have stressed that they will be "patient" before hiking rates again - noting increasing signs of an economic slowdown worldwide and in the United States with few signs of accelerating inflation. Food costs gained 0.4 percent, the biggest increase since 2014.

"We project a 0.19% MoM core reading with potential upside risk from strong apparel prices but downside risk from a pull-back in used vehicle prices". The cost of doctor visits edged up 0.1 per cent last month.

Owners' equivalent rent of primary residence, which is what a homeowner would pay to rent or receive from renting a home, increased 0.3 percent in February, as it did in January.

But consumers got some relief from healthcare costs, which fell 0.2 percent after five straight monthly increases.

A decline in gasoline prices that began in October ended last month. I think we'll always be moving inflation back to 2 percent with our policy.

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