Bad news for interest rates as inflation climbs amid higher fuel, food prices

South Africa’s inflation rate rose for the first time in three months in January on the back of higher fuel and food prices.

Consumer prices climbed 5.3% from a year earlier, compared with 5.1% in December, Pretoria-based Statistics South Africa said Wednesday in a statement. The median estimate of 20 economists in a Bloomberg survey was 5.4%. 

Inflation in Africa’s most industrialized economy has now breached the 4.5% midpoint of the central bank’s target range, where it prefers to anchor expectations, for almost three years.

That could see policymakers maintain the key interest rate at an almost 15-year high of 8.25% for a while longer. It has been at that level since May. 

Governor Lesetja Kganyago has repeatedly said that the job of taming inflation isn’t yet done and that interest rates will only be cut once there’s a discernible trend that shows it is easing toward its 4.5% target and stays there in a sustained manner. 

Forward-rate agreements starting in four months’ time show traders are pricing in an almost 60% chance of a 25 basis-point reduction in the nation’s benchmark interest rate. The rand pared gains.

The core inflation rate, which excludes food and energy costs, rose to 4.6% from 4.5% in December.


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