Vietnam’s Inflation Accelerates to 22%, Highest Among Economies in Asia

Vietnamese inflation accelerated for an 11th month in July after the central bank cut a key interest rate even as the nation faces the fastest price gains in Asia.

Consumer prices rose 22.16 percent from a year earlier, compared with June’s 20.82 percent pace, data released by the General Statistics Office in Hanoi showed today. Prices climbed 1.17 percent from June.

The central bank reduced its repurchase rate to 14 percent from 15 percent on July 4 after a spate of increases since November to fight inflation, leading the International Monetary Fund to say the cut may confuse investors. The benchmark VN Index of stocks is down 16 percent this year, on concern price gains will hurt the economy.

“The markets were very surprised by the easing,” Prakriti Sofat, a Singapore-based economist at Barclays Capital, said before the release. “It’s too early to go into a full-blown easing cycle given that inflation and inflation expectations remain elevated.”

Vietnam will find it “very difficult” to slow inflation to 17 percent by the end of 2011, Ha Van Hien, head of the National Assembly’s Economic Committee, told the opening of the body in Hanoi on July 21. It may peak as high as 23 percent in August before slowing to 18 percent by year-end, Sofat said.

The VN Index fell 0.9 percent yesterday to 409.2, while the dong weakened 0.1 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The currency was devalued by about 7 percent in February, the most since at least 1993, risking costlier imports.

Food, Transport Costs

Food, transport and construction-material prices have stoked consumer-price growth, according to Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. Transport prices rose 21.7 percent from a year earlier in July, today’s data showed. July’s annual inflation rate is the highest in a basket of 17 Asian economies tracked by Bloomberg.

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung in February cut the credit- growth target and ordered a tighter monetary policy to try to tame inflation, revive confidence in the economy and prevent another credit-rating downgrade. This month’s rate cut wasn’t a “policy signal,” the central bank said in a July 8 statement.

“We assume policymakers are again demonstrating their low tolerance for slower growth,” Christian de Guzman, a Singapore- based assistant vice president at Moody’s Investors Service, said in a note on July 11.

The nation’s economy expanded 5.6 percent from a year earlier in the first half of 2011. Moody’s said that a “tight” monetary policy would threaten the government’s full-year target of 6 percent.

‘A Bit Concerned’

“We are a bit concerned that the cut in rates will confuse the market about the government’s commitment to sustaining the stabilization effort under Resolution 11,” Benedict Bingham, the IMF’s senior resident representative in Vietnam, said this month. Resolution 11 refers to the steps Dung took in February.

“A strong commitment to sustaining this effort is essential to re-establishing confidence in the dong and restoring macro-economic stability more generally,” Bingham said.

The State Bank of Vietnam had increased the repurchase rate for the seven-day term from 7 percent at the start of November 2010 before this month’s cut. It appears to have become the benchmark for monetary policy, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co.

--Jason Folkmanis in Ho Chi Minh City. Editors: Sunil Jagtiani, Jim McDonald

To contact the reporter on this story: Jason Folkmanis in Ho Chi Minh City at folkmanis@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephanie Phang at sphang@bloomberg.net

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