Russian Inflation Set to Accelerate as Food Prices Rise
Russian inflation probably quickened last month from a record low to the fastest pace since January as food costs increased, a survey of economists showed.
Consumer prices rose 4 percent from a year earlier, compared with a 3.6 percent advance the previous month, according to the median of 16 estimates in a Bloomberg survey. Prices increased 0.6 percent from May, a second poll showed. The Moscow-based Federal Statistics Service will report the data today or tomorrow.
The inflation rate in the world’s largest energy exporter has held at 3.6 percent in April and May, the lowest since the collapse of the Soviet Union, after the government delayed annual utility-tariff increases for six months. That trend may reverse as hot weather reduces crop yields and drives food prices higher, according to Piotr Matys, an emerging-markets analyst at 4Cast Ltd. in London.
“June will be a turning point as inflation’s going to resume an upward trend,” Matys said yesterday in a telephone interview. “Food has been the main cooling factor behind Russia’s consumer-price index in previous months and the central bank warned us that this positive factor is going to fade.”
The Micex Index (INDEXCF) fell for the first time in four days, dropping 0.2 percent to 1,434.20 as of 1:20 p.m. in Moscow. It has risen 2.3 percent in 2012. The ruble weakened 0.1 percent to 32.1850 per dollar after closing at the strongest level since May yesterday. The currency depreciated 9.2 percent in the second quarter.
“The effect of the weaker ruble on inflation seems to be rather limited,” Troika Dialog’s Moscow-based chief economist Evgeny Gavrilenkov wrote in a note. “Week-on-week inflation temporarily accelerated to 0.2 percent from the ‘usual’ 0.1 percent, but it returned to this level at end-June.”
A weaker ruble can spur inflation by making the cost of imported goods higher. Consumer prices have risen 2.8 percent in the year through June 25, compared with a 4.9 percent advance in the same period of 2011, the statistics service said last week.
About 40 percent of the food consumed in Russia is imported, Julia Tsepliaeva, head of research at BNP Paribas in Moscow, wrote in a note last week. Food costs, which account for 30 percent of the consumer price index, have risen at a slower pace over the last year after a strong harvest.
Russia’s grain crop will fall to between 80.5 million and 85 million tons in the 2012-13 season from 94 million tons the previous year, Andrei Sizov Jr., managing director of Moscow’s SovEcon research center, said yesterday.
The central bank has left its benchmark interest rate unchanged since December even as monetary-policy makers in developed and emerging nations reduce borrowing costs to stimulate their economies. Price growth will pick up in the second half of 2012 as the effects of food disinflation disappear and utility prices rise, the regulator said June 15.
Bank Rossii still predicts full-year inflation of 5 percent to 6 percent, compared with about 4 percent now, Deputy Chairman Sergey Shvetsov told reporters in Moscow yesterday.
“We have every reason to believe that when the July factor feeds through, we’ll reach the target range,” he said. “The harvest has been fairly normal, so we’re sure we’ll finish the year within the target range.”
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