The rand price of Brent crude oil – the benchmark for setting gasoline prices in South Africa – climbed above R1,200 ($83) a barrel this week for the first time since 2013.
Back then, it marked the start of an interest-rate-raising cycle that saw the policy rate jump to 7% from 5% in six steps.
With the gasoline price set to climb to a record on Wednesday – fueling transport and food costs – the consumer inflation rate will probably breach the 6% upper limit of the central bank’s target range, making a rate increase in November all but inevitable, according to FirstRand Ltd.’s Rand Merchant Bank unit.
Bloomberg has also reported that the risk that South African inflation will overshoot the 6% upper limit of the Reserve Bank’s target should not be underestimated given the volatile global environment – citing the Reserve Bank’s deputy governor Daniel Mminele.
An extended and sizable deviation in price growth from 4.5% “would raise the risks of medium-term inflation expectations drifting back to, if not above, the top end of the range,” Mminele said in a copy of a speech posted on the central bank’s website.
The Reserve Bank said last month inflation will peak at 5.9% in the second quarter of next year and settle at 5.4% toward the end of 2020. While this is inside the institution’s target band, the Monetary Policy Committee has made it clear it prefer price growth close to 4.5% rather than just below 6%.
The MPC kept its benchmark rate unchanged at 6.5% last month, with three of its seven members favoring a tighter stance. Its next policy announcement is scheduled for Nov. 22 and forward-rate agreements starting in two months are pricing in a 60% chance of a quarter-point increase.
“Exchange-rate depreciation, as well as the rising trend in world oil prices and uncertainties about future electricity tariff increases, pose the main upside risks to the outlook,” Mminele said.
“While sub-par growth in demand seem to limit the pass-through to prices of higher input costs for now, the central bank “will act against any sign of second-round price effects from the recent rand exchange-rate and oil-price shifts,” he said.
The rand has depreciated 14% this year against the dollar, the most among major currencies tracked by Bloomberg after Brazil’s real, which has lost 16%.