Inflation accelerated from 5.4 percent in December, the Pretoria-based statistics office said. The median estimate of 24 economists surveyed by Bloomberg was 5.7 percent. Prices rose 0.7 percent in the month.
The rand’s 22 percent plunge against the dollar since the start of last year, the worst among 16 major currencies tracked by Bloomberg, has boosted inflation expectations as import costs increase. That prompted the Reserve Bank to raise its benchmark repurchase rate by half a percentage point to 5.5 percent last month, the first increase since June 2008.
“Much of the upward inflationary price pressures are stemming from food and fuel prices,” Kamilla Kaplan, an economist at Investec Ltd. in Johannesburg, said in an e-mailed note to clients before the data was released. The central bank “will likely continue to highlight the upside risks to the inflation outlook.”
Inflation will probably breach the central bank’s 3 percent to 6 percent target in the second quarter of this year and peak at 6.6 percent in the final three months of the year, Governor Gill Marcus said on Jan. 29.
The core inflation rate, which excludes food, non-alcoholic beverages, gasoline and energy costs, was unchanged at 5.3 percent in January, in line with the median estimate of eight economists surveyed by Bloomberg.
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