Economy

Brazil inflation rose above 6% in March for the first time in five years

Six of the nine categories surveyed by IBGE showed rising prices in March, with a 3.8% jump in transport costs accounting for 0.77 percentage points of the overall monthly rise

A costumer buys meat at a supermarket in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil May 10, 2019.
Photo: REUTERS/Pilar Olivares
  • Brazil inflation rose above 6% in March for the first time in five years as spiking fuel and energy prices lifted;
  • Six of the nine categories surveyed by IBGE showed rising prices in March, with a 3.8% jump in transport costs;
  • The central bank’s year-end goal is 3.75%, with a 1.5 percentage point margin of error on either side;
  • Brazil’s benchmark Selic interest rate is set to reach its neutral level next year, a central bank director said on Thursday.

Annual inflation in Brazil rose above 6% in March for the first time in more than four years, official figures showed on Friday, as spiking fuel and energy prices lifted overall inflation even further above the central bank’s year-end target.

The annual rate of consumer inflation rose to 6.10% from 5.20% in February, statistics agency IBGE said, slightly below the 6.20% median forecast in a Reuters poll of economists but the highest since December 2016.

The central bank’s year-end goal is 3.75%, with a 1.5 percentage point margin of error on either side. These figures show inflation is well above even the 5.25% upper limit of that range.

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While energy price spikes may be transitory, policymakers will not want inflation expectations to become unanchored.

“The central bank is clearly worried by above-target inflation and another 75bp hike in the Selic rate to 3.50% at the next meeting in May looks likely,” said William Jackson, chief emerging market economist at Capital Economics.

The central bank last month delivered its first increase in borrowing costs since 2015, raising the Selic rate by 75 basis points to 2.75%.

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Central bank chief Roberto Campos Neto said this week that the bank’s “partial normalization” of monetary policy will continue unless it sees signs of inflation and inflation expectations rising significantly.

The bank’s economic policy director Fabio Kanczuk said on Thursday that policymakers’ baseline scenario is for a ‘neutral’ Selic rate of 3% in real terms, or 6%-6.5% in nominal terms, which should be reached next year.

Monthly inflation edged up to 0.93% in March from 0.86% in February, IBGE said, the highest for any March since 2015 and close to economists’ forecast for a 1.0% rise.

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Six of the nine categories surveyed by IBGE showed rising prices in March, with a 3.8% jump in transport costs accounting for 0.77 percentage points of the overall monthly rise.

Within the transport segment, fuel prices rose more than 11% on the month, IBGE said.

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