Fuel Pushes Wholesale Inflation to 2.5-Year High
Wholesale inflation for Jan rose to 5.25% against 3.39% in Dec; core wholesale inflation firmed up to 28-mth high of 2.67%
New Delhi: Costlier fuel and an adverse base effect pushed wholesale inflation to a two-and-a-half year high in January, even as price rise in food items remained muted.
Wholesale inflation for January came in at 5.25% compared with 3.39% in December, data released by the commerce and industry ministry on Tuesday showed.
Core wholesale inflation, or nonfood, non-fuel inflation, firmed up to a 28-month high of 2.67% in sync with an over 5% reading for core consumer inflation. Data released on Monday showed consumer inflation fell to a five-year low of 3.17% because of weak food inflation, but it is expected to firm up in the coming months.
Higher global commodity prices led by 18.14% inflation in the fuel and power segment drove Wholesale Price Index (WPI) to its highest level since July 2014. Fuel inflation was 8.65% in December.
“Higher WPI inflation along with benign CPI (consumer price index) inflation is likely to further widen the wedge between retail and wholesale inflation, with the latter significantly overshooting the former. High core WPI and CPI inflation continues to weaken the case for a rate cut in the foreseeable future,” said Upasna Bhardwaj, senior economist at Kotak Mahindra Bank.
Analysts had expected a 3.8% increase in WPI in January.
WPI inflation in manufactured products, which has a 64.97% we- ight in the index, rose to 3.99% in January from 3.6% in the previous month.
Food inflation was in the negative zone for the second month running, with index down 0.56% in January from that a year ago.
Economists expect commodity prices to push WPI even further and the central bank to keep rates on hold for a while. “Given the high prints for both fuel and manufactured products, concerns on their diffusion into CPI are likely to keep Monetary Policy Committee on hold a bit longer. They might prefer to wait for a few more data points to gauge the effect on inflation expectations,” said Saugata Bhattacharya, chief economist at Axis Bank. Yes Bank expects WPI to trend up in the upcoming prints as adverse base effects, higher global commodity prices and uptick in economic activity impart an upside thrust.
“With simmering global risks emanating from reversal in commodity cycle and uncertainty from the US monetary and fiscal policy likely to worsen the tradable inflation trajectory and core CPI inflation expected to remain persistently sticky, we expect RBI to maintain status quo through at least first half of 2018,” Bhardwaj said.
The government revised wholesale inflation for November to 3.38% from 3.15% earlier.
Food inflation was in negative zone for 2nd month, with index down 0.56% in Jan from yr ago