South Africa Inflation Quickens to 4% in March, Below Forecast

South Africa’s inflation rate rose to 4 percent in March, less than economists had estimated.

Inflation accelerated from a four-year low of 3.9 percent in February, the Pretoria-based statistics office said on its website on Wednesday. The median estimate of 25 economists surveyed by Bloomberg was 4.1 percent. Prices rose 1.4 percent in the month.

While the central bank left its benchmark repurchase rate unchanged at 5.75 percent on March 26 to help support an economy which grew at the slowest pace last year since a 2009 recession, rising gasoline, electricity and food costs are putting pressure on prices. Deputy Governor Daniel Mminele said on April 19 the deterioration in the inflation outlook has reduced the central bank’s flexibility on rates.

“This week’s inflation numbers should highlight to the Reserve Bank that the softer inflation prints the economy enjoyed in the early parts of the year are largely behind it,” Jeffrey Schultz, an economist at BNP Paribas Cadiz Securities in Johannesburg, said in an e-mailed note to clients before the data was released. “Higher inflation in the face of pedestrian economic growth will leave the Reserve Bank with a delicate balancing act again in the second half of 2015.”

The core inflation rate, which excludes food, non-alcoholic beverages, gasoline and electricity costs, fell to 5.7 percent in March from 5.8 percent in the previous month.

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