Russian Inflation Slows Further After Halt in Rate Cuts

  • Price growth decelerates to 15.6%, in line with forecasts
  • Central bank forced to extend pause in easing for second month

Russian inflation decelerated for a second month, remaining almost four times the central bank’s target as expectations of faster price growth continue to throttle monetary easing.

Consumer prices increased 15.6 percent from a year earlier in October after a 15.7 percent gain in September, the Federal Statistics Service said in a statement Thursday. That matched the median of 20 estimates in a Bloomberg survey. Prices increased 0.7 percent in the month.

As a weaker currency and falling wages cripple living standards, price growth is taking on greater importance before parliamentary elections next year, with Governor Elvira Nabiullina calling it a “major social problem.” Inflation has barely budged after reaching a three-month high in August, hampering efforts by the central bank to revive the recession-hit economy with further interest-rate cuts.

“The headline rate remains extremely high, and this figure alone is unlikely to be enough to tip the balance on the monetary policy council in favor of a rate cut,” Liza Ermolenko, emerging-markets economist for London-based Capital Economics, said in a note. “The key to watch out for will be November’s CPI figure and subsequent weekly CPI releases prior to the next rate-setting meeting on Dec. 11.”

The ruble is partly recouping losses after falling almost 50 percent since the start of 2014. It gained more than 2 percent against the dollar in October and is the third-best performer among emerging-market currencies in the past three months.

Finding a solution to the problem of inflation “will largely determine people’s trust in economic policy as a whole,” Nabiullina told lawmakers Tuesday. “That’s why the central bank is so focused on the problem of inflation and inflation expectations.”

Policy makers kept their benchmark at 11 percent last week, extending September’s pause after five reductions this year. The central bank said it stands ready to “continue with a downward revision” in borrowing costs at one of its coming meetings if price growth falls in line with its forecast, according to a statement issued after the Oct. 30 decision.

The inflation rate is set to fall to below 7 percent in March if oil prices remain at current levels, with the consumer-price index to slow to 5 percent or 6 percent by the end of next year, according to Deputy Finance Minister Maxim Oreshkin. Policy makers estimate inflation will reach their 4 percent target by end-2017.

“We predict that the annual rate of inflation is about to enter a five-month period during which it will plummet rapidly due to base effects and ruble stability,” Daniel Hewitt, an economist at Barclays Plc in London, said by e-mail.

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