UPDATE: March inflation picks up to 1.1%


Hits DOF forecast

INFLATION in March picked up to 1.1 percent from and 0.9 percent in February on higher prices of food and other commodities, data released by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed on Tuesday.

Against a year earlier, however, the rise in prices decelerated from 2.4 percent, traced to low housing and utility rates.

The March 2016 figure hit the 1.1 percent estimate by the Department of Finance. It stayed at the higher end of the 0.6 percent to 1.4 percent range estimated by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) for the month and stood within the projected range of 1.0 percent to 1.3 percent by analysts polled by The Manila Times.

The PSA said growth in March headline inflation from the preceding month was due to higher annual increments noted in the indices of food and non-alcoholic beverages; alcoholic beverages and tobacco; recreation and culture; and restaurant and miscellaneous goods and services.

A “decline was, however, still recorded in the index of housing, water, electricity, gas, and other fuels at -1.5 percent,” it  said.

Excluding food and energy prices, core inflation remained at 1.5 percent, the same rate in February but lower than the 2.7 percent recorded in March 2015.

In the year-to-date, inflation in the first quarter of 2016 averaged 1.1 percent, below the 2 percent to 4 percent target of the BSP for this year.

High food prices
The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said in a statement inflation in food items went up slightly to 1.6 percent in March 2016 from 1.5 percent in the previous month, due to increases in the price of meat, milk, cheese and eggs.

On the other hand, rice prices remained lower than in the previous year at a rate of -1.7 percent in March from -2 percent in February and have been declining consistently since October 2015 despite the El Niño phenomenon, it said.

Likewise, prices of vegetables, while remaining elevated since November 2015, have trended down after peaking in January 2016, declining by 2.9 percent in March 2016 from the previous month, for a total decline of 7.8 percent since the beginning of the year, the agency added.
“We have been closely monitoring price movements and looking at factors that influence commodity prices, especially food consumed by the poor,” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Emmanuel Esguerra said.
“Aware of El Niño, the government has put in place a program to mitigate the impact of the drought. We need to ensure adequate supply of food and provide assistance to affected farmers,” he added.
An increase in domestic oil prices was recorded, particularly for gasoline by 5.03 percent, liquefied petroleum gas by 0.58 percent, diesel by 8.6 percent and kerosene by 7.06 percent, the NEDA said.
These increases were the result of cutbacks in production and exploration of international energy firms due to the continued soft oil prices, it explained.
The “outlook for oil prices in the medium term remains modest, given a backdrop of strong world crude oil supply growth and weak global demand. Overall, the continuing environment of low international oil prices remains a positive development for the country, considering that we are a net importer of oil,” said Esguerra, who is also NEDA director general.


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