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economy ECONOMIC INDICATORS

INDEC: Inflation in February hit 3.8%

Consumer prices have risen by 6.8% in first two months of the year, with the accumulated 12-month figure now standing at 51.3%.

Thursday 14 March, 2019
A shopper checks prices in a Carrefour supermarket in the capital.
A shopper checks prices in a Carrefour supermarket in the capital. Foto:NA/DAMIAN DOPACIO

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Inflation is continuing to accelerate, the INDEC national statistics bureau revealed today, as it posted data indicating that consumer prices rose by 3.8 percent in February.

Driven by increases in fuels, utilities, food and beverages, inflation for the month outpaced private estimates and the rate registered the previous month in January. Prices have now risen by 6.8 percent in just the first two months of the year, casting a further shadow over the government's hopes that inflation would slow in 2019.

INDEC's figures indicate inflation has now accelerated for a second straight month. Over the last 12 months, prices in Argentina have now risen by 51.3 percent in total, the highest annual pace since President Mauricio Macri took office in late 2015.

February's hikes were led by notable increases of 5.7 percent in food and beverages and 6.4 percent for housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels.

The north of Argentina was hit the hardest, with the provinces of Formosa, Chaco, Corrientes and Misiones registering price increases of 4.5 percent. In contrast, Patagonia saw prices rose by three percent on average. 

Later in the day, Central Bank President Gustavo Sandleris admitted inflation was “too high” and promised to take new measures to curb the rate. The financial institution's latest periodic report on price rises predicted inflation in 2019 would surpass 30 percent. 

The International Monetary Fund's (IMF) most recent annual estimate, issued last year, predicted prices would rise 20 percent in 2019, officials there have indicated that projection will be raised.

The news does little to help the re-election hopes of President Mauricio Macri, who is banking on an improved economic outlook as Argentina heads deeper into an election year.

Inflation in 2018 hit 47.6 percent, the highest in nearly three decades, with consumers losing purchasing power as wages fail to keep up with price increases.

Private estimates now believe inflation this year may close at 32 percent, though any annual outlook will greatly depend on the outcome of the elections in October.

Measures

On Thursday, Sandleris said the Central Bank would extend its policy of freezing monetary base growth until the end of the year, though he said the institution would not freeze the exchange rate as a measure to lower inflation.

He also said that Argentina's non-intervention trading band for the peso, previously agreed with the International Monetary Fund last year, would be tweaked so the currency depreciated more gradually.

The band will now depreciate at 1.75 percent per month, starting in April, as opposed to two percent currently.

“We need to be persistent, understanding that there are no immediate results,” Sandleris told reporters at a press conference in the capital. “But without a doubt, there will be results.”

- TIMES/PERFIL

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