Higher Food Costs Propel Serb Inflation Close to Target Range

Serbia’s price growth accelerated more than forecast to the fastest pace in 14 months in January, with more expensive food pushing inflation close to the central bank’s target range for the first time in over a year.

Consumer prices rose 2.4 percent from a year earlier, after a 1.5 percent increase in December, the Statistics Office in Belgrade said in an e-mailed statement on Tuesday. The reading exceeded the 1.7 percent estimate in a Bloomberg survey. Monthly inflation was 0.6 percent, the office said. Prices in the food and beverages category rose an annual 1.7 percent and were 2.3 percent up from the previous month.

The inflation spike in January was in line with the central bank’s expectations, according to Raiffeisenbank AD in Belgrade. Cheaper oil and agricultural products, combined with lower inflation in the euro area, will probably “tailwind the inflation fall again from February,” Raiffeisenbank said in a note to clients.

The National Bank of Serbia has struggled to boost consumer price growth for two years, cutting its benchmark interest rate eight times since last March by a cumulative 3.75 percentage points to 4.25 percent. It also amended the reserve requirement rules for lenders to unlock their funds and encourage more credit activity. It sees inflation staying low on cheap crude through the middle of the year, before picking up speed again near the end of this year or in early 2017.

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