Russian Inflation Holds Above Target for 16th Month in December

Russian inflation held above the central bank’s target for a 16th month in December, underscoring the central bank’s reluctance to stimulate the economy by reducing borrowing costs.

Consumer prices rose 6.5 percent from a year earlier, the Federal Statistics Service in Moscow said today in an e-mailed statment. Economists forecast a deceleration to 6.4 percent, according to the median of 19 estimates in a Bloomberg survey. Prices rose 0.5 percent in the month, matching projections. The figures are preliminary, with final data to be reported Jan. 9.

Central bank Chairman Elvira Nabiullina, who took the post in June, is trying to show households and companies that she can get inflation in check next year after missing the 2013 target range of 5 percent to 6 percent. The regulator left its main lending rates unchanged for a 15th month in December as it looks to attain 5 percent consumer-price growth next year.

“Faster growth in prices for passenger transportation, increases to alcohol and tobacco excise duties, and inflation in some food products are the main reasons the central bank wasn’t able to keep inflation within its target,” Maria Pomelnikova, an economist at ZAO Raiffeisenbank in Moscow, said by phone before the report.

The ruble is the ninth-best performer over the last six months among 24 emerging-market currencies tracked by Bloomberg, gaining less than 0.1 percent against dollar.

Inflation expectations were “fairly negative” in December, the central bank said Dec. 19, citing survey of 2,000 adults across Russia conducted in the week ending Dec. 2 by the Public Opinion Foundation, a Moscow-based polling company.

Bank Rossii forecasts that inflation will start declining in the first half of next year and reach the target of 5 percent in the second half, policy makers said in a statement after their Dec. 13 rates meeting.

A freeze on fees charged by state monopolies such as natural gas producer OAO Gazprom and OAO Russian Railways next year is a “pivotal step” to slow inflation, according to Pomelnikova. The slowing economy, combined with “effective policy” by the central bank and Finance Ministry will also help, she said.

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