March inflation seen flat to firmer

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CONSUMER prices likely remained flat or rose just slightly in March from February’s 2.5 percent largely due to lower crude oil prices, private analysts polled by The Manila Times said.

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The analysts estimate March headline inflation to be in the range of 2.5 percent to 2.8 percent, which falls within the central bank’s projection of between 2.1 percent and 2.9 percent.

Official March inflation data is due for release by the Philippine Statistics Authority today (Tuesday).

Analysts at the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) said they see inflation remaining at 2.5 percent in March.

“Petroleum product prices combined with modest increases in food prices could lead to a 2.5 percent print for March,” Emilio Neri Jr., BPI vice president and lead economist, said.
Nicholas Antonio Mapa, associate economist at BPI, attributed their inflation outlook to a generally benign price environment with fuel and food prices in check

Meanwhile, Patrick Ella, economist at Security Bank Corp., said he expects a 2.57 percent rate for March, which reflects weaker energy and food prices over the month as well as the impact of a weaker peso.

However, Tim Condon, ING Asia chief economist, said inflation last month likely inched up to 2.6 percent amid price movements in food, housing and utilities and transport components.

“Lower global oil prices mean lower electricity tariffs and lower gasoline prices, which make it cheaper to transport food from farm to market,” he said

Justino Calaycay Jr., analyst at Accord Capital Equities Corp., estimates March inflation to be between 2.5 percent and 2.7 percent.

“We see inflation to have remained stable between 2.5 percent to 2.7 percent from last month’s 2.5 percent,” Calaycay said, noting that while oil prices have basically stabilized, electricity consumption is seen to have increased as the weather turned more humid.

Metrobank Research gave the highest estimate, putting March inflation at 2.8 percent.

“Our inflation forecast for March is 2.8 percent, driven by the slight upside to oil prices while food price movements are mixed,” said Mabellene Reynaldo, research analyst at Metrobank Research.

The BSP earlier announced it expected March inflation to average between 2.1 percent and 2.9 percent.

“Reductions in electric power rates, local oil pump prices and taxi fares, as well as the continued easing of rice prices indicate downside inflation pressures for March,” BSP Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said.

Full-year inflation is projected by the central bank at 2.2 percent, down from its previous forecast of 2.3 percent.

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