INFLATION likely accelerated further in June and stayed above the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ (BSP) target range, economists polled by The Manila Times said.
Forecasts for the month ranged from 4.6-5 percent with a 4.7 percent average and just one out of seven analysts projected an end to five consecutive months of faster consumer price growth.
The BSP’s 2.0-4.0 target for the year was first breached in March and two more months of above-4.0 percent results — leading to a five-year peak of 4.6 percent in May — prompted monetary authorities to order two successive policy rate hikes.
The economists polled offered mixed views as to whether further tightening could follow but most said the BSP’s policymaking Monetary Board was likely done with raising interest rates for the year.
The central bank last week said inflation could go either way in June, forecasting a result ranging from 4.3-5.1 percent. Official figures for the month will be released this Thursday by the Philippine Statistics Authority.
Standard Chartered Bank economist Chidu Narayanan had the highest estimate of 5 percent, which he said attributed to rising food, fuel and transport prices.
“Higher inflation, combined with a weak currency and still-strong credit growth, is likely to loosen monetary conditions further,” he added, noting the possibility another policy rate hike in August.
Security Bank Corp., Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), and HSBC analysts, meanwhile, forecast June inflation of 4.8 percent.
Angelo Taningco, assistant vice-president at Security Bank, pointed to supply constraints involving certain food items and higher import costs caused by elevated crude prices and the peso’s depreciation.
“I still foresee inflation to rise further in subsequent months. Thus, I believe that rising inflation expectations could likely prompt BSP to raise rates again for the third time this year, i.e., in the third quarter—as early as August,” he said.
The BPI and HSBC economists declined to expound on their forecasts.
Analysts from Land Bank of the Philippines and University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P), meanwhile, estimated a 4.7-percent result.
LandBank market economist Guian Angelo Dumalagan said inflation could still pick up, despite normalizing price pressures from a recent hike in excise taxes, due to higher oil and rice prices as well as the peso’s weakness.
“The recent trend in inflation, however, suggests that inflation is already starting to peak,” he said.
Dumalagan believes monetary authorities will no longer increase policy rates, saying the two rate hikes in May and June are already sufficient to temper inflation expectations and ensure a return to the 2.0-4.0 target range next year.
He noted, however, that the Monetary Board appeared to be giving more weight to external developments especially with respect to the impact on capital outflows and the peso.
“As such, the future moves of the BSP could be increasingly influenced by unexpected changes in the tone of the US Federal Reserve and, perhaps, the European Central Bank,” Dumalagan said.
UA&P economist Victor Abola for his part acknowledged “some pressures still from food and oil” but said he saw “no further rate hikes”.
The lowest forecast of 4.6 percent, meanwhile, came from Metrobank Research head Marc Bautista who said inflation could be tapering off as rice from the National Food Authority rice becomes more widely available and crude prices settle.
“Given this, it’s even possible that inflation may even go down the 4 percent levels towards yearend, especially if global oil prices don’t move up as much anymore,” Abola said.
“In this light, we don’t see any more BSP rate hikes for the rest of 2018,” he added.
Economic managers have kept the inflation target at 2.0-4.0 percent for the next three years, declaring that “social programs and measures are expected to mitigate second-round effects” from possible minimum wage adjustments and fare hikes.
The Monetary Board, in raising key interest rates for the second time this year in June, noted the need for “follow-through” action to address inflation.
The fresh 25-basis point adjustment brought the central bank’s overnight borrowing, lending and deposit rates to 3.5 percent, 4.0 percent and 3.0 percent, respectively.
The Monetary Board, however, trimmed its inflation forecasts for 2018 and 2019 to 4.5 percent and 3.3 percent, respectively, from 4.6 percent and 3.4 percent previously.