Philippine annual inflation blew past expectations in January to reach a fresh 14-year high on surging food prices, raising the chance of the central bank delivering a bigger interest rate hike to tame prices when it meets this month.
The consumer price index (CPI) rose 8.7 percent in January, the statistics agency said on Tuesday, above the 7.7 percent forecast in a Reuters poll and topping the 8.1 percent rate in December, when the central bank had expected prices to peak.
Core inflation, which strips out volatile food and fuel items, also increased to a more than two-decade high of 7.4 percent, from December's 6.9 percent, suggesting price pressures remain broad.
The main driver of January's red-hot CPI read was the 11.2 percent annual rise in food inflation. That's the quickest pace of price rises since 2009, and compares to December's 10.6 percent increase, and the 1.6 percent food inflation rate in January 2022.
The Philippine central bank, which had forecast January CPI to come in at 7.5-8.3 percent, said on Saturday that it will focus on inflation rather than the Federal Reserve's most recent 25-basis point hike when it meets on February 16 to review interest rates.
Given the faster-than-expected inflation in January, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) looks certain to hike interest rates by at least 25 basis points and with a bigger 50 bps likely to be on the table, ING economist Nicholas Mapa said in a Tweet.
The Philippines' broader stock index dropped 0.4 percent in early trade on expectations of a larger rate hike, while the peso slipped 0.5 percent to 54.73 to the US dollar. (Reuters)