Headline inflation may settle at as low as 3 percent or as high as 3.8 percent in April, the central bank said, broadening its forecast range from the 3.4 percent posted in March to factor in higher utility rates and oil prices, as well as lower cooking gas prices and a stronger peso.
The central bank’s April estimate indicates a big jump from 1.1 percent a year earlier. The 3.4 percent rate in March this year marked the fastest rise in prices since November 2014, when the rate hit 3.7 percent.
The April inflation data is due for release by the Philippine Statistics Authority on May 5, Friday.
“Upward adjustments in electricity and water rates, as well as higher domestic fuel prices, could be partially offset by lower LPG prices and the stronger peso,” Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said in a text message to reporters on Wednesday night.
Power distributor Meralco said earlier electric bills in April for a typical household would increase by P0.23 per kilowatt-hour (kWh), bringing the overall household rate to P9.89 per kWh from P9.67 per kWh in March.
That would mean a P46 increase in the total month bill for a typical household consuming 200 kWh a month.
On the other hand, Maynilad and Manila Water have implemented 12 centavos and 26 centavos per cubic
meter increases in water rates, respectively.
Domestic petroleum companies imposed oil price hikes at the start of the month. They raised the prices of diesel and gasoline by 35 centavos per liter, while prices of kerosene rose 30 centavos per liter.
Meanwhile, prices of liquefied petroleum gas products were adjusted downward by P5 in April.
The local currency has gained strength, returning to the P49:$1 level from P50:$1 on April 10. On Thursday, it closed trading on the Philippine Dealing System at P49.95:$1.
For full year 2017, the BSP projects average inflation at 3.4 percent, within the government target range of 2 percent to 4 percent. The BSP said economists in its survey also had a consensus forecast of 3.4 percent on average for this year, citing upward pressures coming from a weak peso, high global prices, tax reform, high electricity rates and higher government spending on infrastructure.
The central bank said it will remain watchful of economic and financial developments that could affect the inflation outlook.
In its latest inflation report, the BSP said higher consumption taxes, together with demand stimulus from the fiscal reform program, are expected to push inflation upward.
It also took into account a possible occurrence of El Niño in the latter part of 2017 and a transport fare hike as a result of higher oil prices.
The BSP report noted that the forecasts by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) suggest that global crude prices could average close to $55.00 per barrel in 2017. Such factor was seen outweighing the downside risks posed by a possible return to low global oil prices, a slowdown in China’s economy and yuan devaluation, as well as the risk of recession and deflation in Japan and the eurozone.
“However, the outlook remains uncertain due to supply-side factors. Despite the relatively high compliance of OPEC [Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries] members to their production targets, there is uncertainty on whether the member countries would renegotiate voluntary supply reductions in the second half of 2017” it said.
Higher production of US shale oil could limit price pressures this year, and on the demand side, slower growth in China could temper global demand, it added.