South Africa’s annual inflation rate dropped more than forecast to the lowest in almost nine years in October, providing some room for the central bank to ease policy.
Consumer price growth slowed to 3.7% compared to 4.1% in September, Statistics South Africa said Wednesday in a statement on its website. This marks 31 consecutive months in which inflation has remained within the central bank’s target band of 3-6%. The median estimate of 14 economists in a Bloomberg survey was 3.9%.
The slowdown in inflation may provide the central bank with room to cut its benchmark interest rate on Thursday. In September, the Reserve Bank’s quarterly projection model showed the repurchase rate staying at 6.5% for the rest of the year, but the Monetary Policy Committee at the time also projected inflation will peak at 5.3% in the first quarter, which is well above the preferred 4.5%.
While the MPC has faced calls to ease policy to boost an economy that is forecast to expand just 0.5% this year, its modelling shows a 25 basis point cut will only increase economic growth by 0.1 percentage points a year later. A deteriorating fiscal outlook and political and policy uncertainty limit the central bank’s ability to cut rates, it said in October.
Annual core inflation, which excludes the prices of food, non-alcoholic drinks, fuel and electricity, was unchanged at 4%.
Forward-rate agreements starting in one month, used to speculate on borrowing costs, dropped and are now pricing in a 40% chance of a 25 basis point rate cut. — Reported by Prinesha Naidoo, with assistance from Hilton Shone, Renee Bonorchis and Simbarashe Gumbo, (c) 2019 Bloomberg LP