Egypt Central Bank Gets Reprieve as Monthly Inflation Slows

(Bloomberg) -- Egyptian consumer prices rose at their slowest monthly rate since May, offering fresh evidence that the impact of fuel price hikes was abating and giving the central bank room to shift its focus from inflation to investments.

Monthly inflation in August eased to 1.8 percent compared to 2.4 percent the previous month, according to data reported by CAPMAS, the state-run statistics agency, its slowest pace since the government began enacting another round of subsidy cuts and rate hikes. The annual rate accelerated to 14.2 percent compared to 13.5 percent in July -- still squarely within the central ban’s target range of 13 percent (+/- 3 percentage points).

Slowing of the monthly rate “signals that inflation is not a concern any more,” according to Radwa El-Swaify, head of research at Pharos Holding in Cairo. “We’re comfortably on track to achieve the central bank’s target by the end of the year.”

Core inflation, which strips out volatile and regulated items, accelerated slightly to 8.83 percent in August compared to 8.54 percent the previous month. Month-on-month, however, the rate was 0.58 percent, its lowest level since February.

Curbing inflation, which had rocketed to over 34 percent following the November 2016 decision to float the pound, was a key priority for the central bank. The regulator has cut rates by 200 basis points this year as it moved to unwind historically high borrowing costs seen last year. It has held the rate unchanged for the past three meetings.

The bank has been attempting to avoid an upswing in inflation while not creating an incentive for investors to pull their money from the debt market amid a selloff roiling emerging markets.

The central bank’s Monetary Policy Committee is scheduled to meet Sept. 27 to discuss rates, and the decision “will be fully driven by the need to keep foreign investors in the debt market,” El-Swaify said, expecting the regulator to hold rates steady.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.