Egypt inflation expected to slow in December: Reuters poll

CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt’s inflation rate probably fell for a third straight month in December on lower food prices, but may see an uptick in coming months after recent government price rises and a possible currency devaluation, a Reuters poll showed on Monday.

Annual urban consumer inflation is seen edging down to 33.4% in December from 34.6% in November, according to the median forecast of 14 analysts polled.

Inflation has eased from a historic high of 38.0% in September, but inflation risks are growing again.

“The various price hikes announced last week are likely to drive inflation higher in the January inflation print released in early February,” said Carla Slim of Standard Chartered.

The government last week raised the price of Cairo metro tickets by up to 20%, internet services by as much as 33% and electricity prices by around 15%.

“Another devaluation of the pound seems on the horizon and the recently announced price hikes to numerous services will further add to price pressures,” Capital Economics wrote in a note.

Many analysts believe Egypt is preparing to devalue its currency sharply in coming weeks as part of a renewed deal with the International Monetary Fund. The currency has been fixed at 30.85 to the dollar since March but trades on the black market at around 52 to the dollar.

Inflation may be rekindled even without a formal devaluation due in part to a weakening currency and rapid monetary expansion, Goldman Sachs said in a note.

“The risk remains that pass-through from the continuously weakening parallel FX rate could rekindle domestic inflationary pressures in the coming months,” Goldman Sachs wrote.

A median of six of the analysts surveyed expected core inflation, which excludes fuel and some volatile food items, to slow to 34.05% in December, from 35.9% in November.

The state statistics agency CAPMAS and the central bank are scheduled to release December inflation data on Wednesday.

(Polling by Devayani Sathyan; Writing by Patrick Werr; Editing by Susan Fenton)