JSE tumbles on inflation data

Robert Laing

Robert Laing

The inflation-rate measure used by the Reserve Bank for its interest rate decisions narrowly missed breaching 8percent last month.

Statistics South Africa reported yesterday that last month's Consumer Price Index excluding mortgages, (CPIX) was 7,9percent higher than a year ago, deteriorating further from October's 7,3percent and slightly worse than the 7,8percent expected by many economists.

This month's 43c a litre petrol price increase is bound to take December's CPIX above 8percent, putting pressure on Reserve Bank governor Tito Mboweni to announce another 0,5percent interest-rate increase at the end of next month after the Monetary Policy Committee's next meeting.

Last month's consumer price index including mortgages (CPI) was 8,4percent. The December figure will be nudged up by this year's fourth 0,5percent interest rate increase, which took effect two weeks ago.

The slightly worse-than- expected inflation data extended the JSE's losing streak to a sixth day.

The All Share Index plunged 2,7percent to a low of 27779 after the data were released, rolling it back to where it was in August.

Banks fared particularly badly, with Standard and Absa's share prices tumbling 4percent after Stats SA's release at 11am.

The central bank prompting of commercial banks to raise their prime overdraft rate to 15percent from February 1 means less new home and car loan customers and more bad-debt problems from existing customers.

Contrary to investors who believer another interest rate hike as inevitable, bank economists pointed to October's retail data, which was also released by Stats SA yesterday as evidence that interest rates will remain level before dropping later next year.

October's 3,2percent growth in retail sales marked the slowest growth in nearly five years.

Nedbank's group economics unit said in a report: "The latest retail sales numbers, combined with some moderation in private sector credit, weak vehicle sales as well as some easing in manufacturing output should convince the Reserve Bank that the economy is responding to higher interest rates."

But news on the inflation front will probably remain bleak over the next five months.