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S. Africa Reserve Bank Says Too Early to Claim Inflation Win

Bloomberg logo Bloomberg 2019-04-18 Rene Vollgraaff and Londell Phumi Ramalepe
a man wearing a suit and tie: Lesetja Kganyago, governor of South Africa's central bank, speaks during a news conference to announce interest rates in Pretoria, South Africa, on Thursday, Nov. 22, 2018. © Bloomberg Lesetja Kganyago, governor of South Africa's central bank, speaks during a news conference to announce interest rates in Pretoria, South Africa, on Thursday, Nov. 22, 2018.

(Bloomberg) -- South Africa’s central bank says it’s premature to claim victory in the war against inflation and sees price growth stabilizing at 4.5 percent only by the end of 2021.

While inflation has been inside the central bank’s target band of 3 percent to 6 percent for two years and was at the midpoint of this range in March, it’s “too early to claim that inflation is already permanently lower,” the South African Reserve Bank said in its Monetary Policy Review published Wednesday in the capital, Pretoria. The improved outcomes were mainly due to positive surprises such as low food-price growth and a stable exchange rate, the central bank said. The rand has appreciated 2.3 percent against the dollar this year.

These comments could further knock the chances of lower borrowing costs in 2019. The bank tightened policy in November even as the economy was coming out of a recession and kept its key rate last month and in January.

The central bank’s quarterly projection model has the repurchase rate moving to 7 percent by the end of 2021 and sees the current rate of 6.75 percent as “slightly expansionary,” according to the review. If the growth-inflation trade-off deteriorates, policymakers may prefer to avoid a tight stance, in which case inflation won’t stabilize at 4.5 percent by 2021, the central bank said.

The last time any member of the Monetary Policy Committee voted to lower interest rates was in March 2018 and the central bank has been steadfast in saying it wants to see inflation expectations anchored at 4.5 percent.

“The South African Reserve Bank is not comfortable with expectations close to 6 percent,” it said in the review. Price growth of about 4.5 percent will help by bringing the domestic inflation rate closer to that of South Africa’s trading partners and boost competitiveness, the central bank said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Rene Vollgraaff in Johannesburg at rvollgraaff@bloomberg.net;Londell Phumi Ramalepe in Johannesburg at lramalepe@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Benjamin Harvey at bharvey11@bloomberg.net, Ana Monteiro, Hilton Shone

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