ECONOMY

Turkish inflation keeps slowing but weak lira a worry

ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey’s April inflation figures sent a mixed signal yesterday, with price rises in the shops continuing to slow but concern that a weaker currency was pressuring wholesale costs. Analysts saw no immediate threat to Turkey’s 12 percent year-end target for both consumer and wholesale inflation, agreed under a $19 billion pact with the International Monetary Fund, but said the lira’s recent slide could indicate risks ahead. «The year-end targets could still be met. But the course of the exchange rate will be important,» said Alfa Securities economist Korhan Berzeg. Taming chronically high inflation is a central pillar of the IMF deal, agreed in 2002 after a financial crisis and due to run its course by next February. Turkey has won warm IMF praise for dragging inflation down to its lowest levels since the 1970s. Official data showed the consumer price index (CPI) rose by 0.59 percent month-on-month in April for an annual rate of 10.18 percent, far below market expectations and the year-end target. But the wholesale price index (WPI) was up by a higher-than-expected 2.65 percent month-on-month and 8.91 percent year-on-year. A Reuters poll last week of 30 banks forecast month-on-month rises of 1.30 percent for the CPI and only 1.28 percent for the WPI. In March, consumer prices rose 0.89 percent and wholesale prices 2.10 percent. Analysts said a surprise increase in agricultural prices played a major part in pushing up the WPI last month, but rising manufacturing costs also took a role, fueled by the lira’s steady weakening against the dollar during April. The exchange rate slid from around 1.30 million at the start of the month to nearly 1.42 million by the end. It touched a new low for the year yesterday, sinking as far as 1.46 million on expectations of a near-term rise in US interest rates. «The coming months will be important when we take oil prices and the movement of the dollar into consideration,» said economist Turker Hamzaoglu at Is Investment. «Now it seems early for a revision (in year-end inflation expectations), but oil and the dollar have already begun to cause pressure.» Analysts said April’s inflation figures meant an imminent interest rate cut was unlikely, as the central bank would want to keep an eye on exchange rate pressures.