inflation

By Vitalii Kravchuk, Institute for Economic Research and Policy Consulting

Mat O’Brien’s recent contribution to the Washington Post’s Wonkblog on hyperinflation in Ukraine has had a huge impact. Drawing on work by Johns Hopkins professor Steve Hanke, O’Brien argues that, although the official rate of inflation from the Ukrainian State Committee on Statistics (Ukrstat) is 28.5 per cent, in reality it is more like 272 per cent.

Hanke is famous for his research on Zimbabwean hyperinflation, where the government was unable to calculate inflation and an alternative method had to be used. The main argument of Hanke’s article and of O’Brien’s blog post is that when a country’s currency collapses, it pushes up the prices of imports, which spill over to other prices. In this situation, Hanke argues, the true inflation rate can be calculated using “a rather straightforward application of a standard, time-tested economic theory” in the form of purchasing power parity, based on the free-market exchange rate (often the black market rate). This formula has been bluntly used in the case of Ukraine. Read more

Argentines who can remember their last bout of hyperinflation in the late 1980s might have been bemused had they witnessed what was happening this week on Florida street in downtown Buenos Aires.

Despite inflation of around 40 per cent, the value of the dollar on the unofficial market (known as the “blue” dollar) was falling so fast on Monday that beyondbrics came across one currency exchange that refused to tell customers queuing to buy pesos what the price was, as it might have changed by the time they reached the counter.

The drop in the “blue” dollar on Monday was the biggest in months, however, it had been falling steadily ever since Alejandro Vanoli took over the central bank six weeks ago, when the dollar fetched nearly 16 pesos. On Monday it was selling at 12 pesos on Florida street – compared with the official rate of 8.5, which has remained fairly stable.

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An Indian labourer carries a sack of vegetables on his head at a wholesale market in Kolkata on September 14, 2011Economists expect the drop in global food prices to help keep inflation low across emerging Asia over the next year, benefiting consumers and allowing central banks to keep monetary policy loose.

The International Monetary Fund estimates that global commodity prices are 8.3 per cent lower than at the start of the year. This can have some complicated effects, with some winners and losers within the same country. Read more

The IMF has joined a rising chorus of concern over inflation in many big emerging economies. External imbalances that led to currency and bond sell-offs in emerging markets in 2013 had improved in 2014, it said in its Global Financial Stability Report, published this week, and:

Recent improvements in inflation expectations for some emerging markets provide welcome monetary policy space, and the decline in global interest rates is reflected in the performance of emerging markets assets this year. Nevertheless, inflation in several major emerging markets remains elevated and warrants caution.

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Many Indian customs are surprising to outsiders – standing to sing the national anthem before any screening at any cinema, for example, or the halwa ceremony that precedes the unveiling of the national budget. The gelatinous, ghee-based dessert was prepared in New Delhi and distributed this week among government employees who have begun printing the most significant document of India’s economic year and will be isolated from their families and other outsiders until it is unveiled on July 10. A little ‘sweet dish’ is the least the government can offer the 100 officials involved in putting the budget together.

That may, however, be one of the only sugary sweet elements in the government’s first budget since Narendra Modi, India’s new prime minister, was voted in with a strong mandate – leaving him with no excuse not to fulfil his campaign promises of reviving growth and embarking on fiscal consolidation. Read more

When the Pope met Queen Elizabeth on Thursday, there was one thing – doubtless to Argentine President Cristina Fernández’s great dismay – which was not on the agenda: the Falkland Islands (or, as the Argentine Pope might have called them, Las Malvinas).

As if to make up for that omission, Fernández ensured the disputed territory’s continued presence in Argentines’ minds by printing a map of the archipelago on a new 50 peso note (worth just over $6), with a stirring image of a gaucho who rose up against British rule in 1833 on the other side. Read more

The tomato once enjoyed a quiet life in Argentina, mixed with lettuce and onion or grated carrot in a traditional accompaniment to a juicy steak. No longer. Today, it is at the centre of an economic ruckus involving a supermarket worker, President Cristina Fernández and her ministers. Read more

Poland’s central bank has already indicated that there is not much chance of it increasing record-low interest rates before mid-2014, and Friday’s unexpectedly low inflation readout will do little to change that assessment. Read more

The Indian economy is growing at under 5 per cent and car sales are in decline. Yet car manufacturers are planning to raise prices in the new year.

As a weak rupee continues to raise input costs, some of the major manufacturers including Maruti Suzuki, Hyundai, Tata Motors and Honda will hike their prices yet again. It doesn’t bode well for sales. Read more

The numbers are not head-turners, but the latest retail sales data out of Poland show the country continuing a steady, if unspectacular, economic revival – which means continued support for current low interest rates.

Retail sales in September grew by an annual 3.9 per cent, below analysts expectations of 4.7 per cent but still enough to show that the economy is rebounding from a sharp slump in the first half of the year. Read more

How much?

How do you deal with complaints of rising food inflation? Blame it on the weather.

FT readers will be aware of surging onion prices in India (they rose by 323 per cent year-on-year in September, up from 245 per cent in August: now that’s tear-jerking). The explanation is usually weather-induced shortages. But there are structural reasons for food inflation, too. Read more

So, Russia is considering price freezes to provide some relief for stretched household budgets and get the country’s economy going again. Investors are likely to be dismayed. Ordinary Russians should be, too. Read more

Is this a worry for India?

Having fallen gradually over the past nine month, Wholesale Price Index inflation rose to 4.86 per cent in India this June. That’s up from 4.7 per cent in May but still below the 7.58 per cent inflation recorded in June last year. It was also under the average forecast of 4.90 per cent in a Reuters poll of analysts. Read more

Further evidence that emerging market central banks are operating independently of the US Federal Reserve: Russia’s central bank held its policy interest rate unchanged at 8.25 per cent on Friday, in spite of evidence that foreign portfolio investors are taking their money out of the country. Read more

Second-guessing Brazil’s central bank has been a little tricky recently. Market volatility and behind-the-scenes political pressure have made interest rate decisions somewhat of a mystery. But economists and traders are relatively confident of a 50 basis point interest rate hike later on Wednesday, it seems. Read more

This was not a number the markets wanted to see, particularly after the upheaval in Turkey in recent weeks. The country’s inflation for the 12 months to the end of June hit 8.3 per cent, up from 6.5 per cent in May. “This increase is beyond anyone’s expectation,” wrote Ozgur Altug at BGC Partners in Istanbul in a note.

The lira flirted with the level of TL1.95 to the dollar, close to its all time lows, while the stock market also fell some 3 per cent from the previous day’s close by early afternoon. Read more

Stuck between the rock of currency depreciation and the hard place of a slowing economy, South Africa’s Reserve Bank kept interest rates on hold at 5 per cent on Thursday while revising down its predictions for 2013 GDP growth.

With governor Gill Marcus declaring herself “increasingly concerned about the deteriorating outlook for the South African economy,” the bank downgraded 2013 growth forecasts from 2.7 per cent to 2.4 per cent – a far from insubstantial cut for a country where about a quarter of the working population is unemployed. Read more

Ghana’s central bank sprung a surprise on Wednesday by raising its policy rate from 15 per cent to 16 per cent, stepping up its efforts to halt the decline of the cedi.

Central Bank Governor Henry Kofi Wampah noted risks to economic growth arising in part from tightened credit, but decided the weakening of the currency was the bigger threat. Read more

India’s annual wholesale price inflation rate dropped to 4.89 per cent in April, a 41-month low.

It was sharply down on the 5.96 per cent recorded in March and well below expectations, with an average forecast of 5.5 per cent in a Reuters poll of analysts. Read more

While China’s manufacturing indices have been rather depressing of late, Indonesia’s numbers are much healthier.

The PMI score came out at 51.7 in April – up from March, a six-month high, and the second highest in the last few years. So, all good? Read more