The Namibian annual inflation rate remained at 3.5% y/y in March, unchanged from February, and significantly down from the 7.0% recorded during the same period last year. Prices increased 0.1% m/m. Of the twelve basket items, four saw a higher annual inflation rate than the previous month, two remained unchanged, while six categories saw lower rates of price increases. Prices for goods increased by 2.8% y/y while prices for services grew by 4.4%, similar annual price increases to those seen in February.
Housing and utilities remained the largest contributor to annual inflation due to its large weighting in the basket. This category remained flat m/m and increased 3.3% y/y, contributing 0.9% towards the annual inflation figure. Year-on-year price increases within the subcategories showed little change from those recorded in February, with the exception being price increases for regular maintenance and repair of dwellings which slowed down to 1.7% y/y in March, from the 3.0% y/y in February. From a month on month perspective, prices in this subcategory increased by 0.3%, while electricity, gas and other fuels increased by 0.1% m/m. The rest of the subcategories remained unchanged month on month.
The transport basket category contributes about 14% towards annual inflation, and serves as the third largest basket item by weighting. It accounted for 0.7% of annual inflation in March which makes it the second largest contributor this month. Prices for transport rose by 0.3% m/m and 5.4% y/y. Prices related to the purchases of vehicles rose by 6.9% y/y in March compared to an 8.2% y/y increase in February. The price of crude oil has surged to levels last seen in 2014 as the risk of violent conflict grips the market and raises concerns over potential Middle East supply disruptions.
The alcoholic beverages and tobacco category showed slightly slower increases of 4.3% y/y and 0.3% m/m. Tobacco prices increased by 1.9% y/y, while alcohol prices increased by 4.8% y/y.
Namibian annual inflation at 3.5% y/y continues trending lower than that of South Africa. South Africa’s February inflation was 4.0% y/y, making it the lowest rate since March 2015 and remaining well within SARB’s target range. The SARB, being an inflation targeting central bank, cut interest rates by 25 basis points at its March MPC meeting whilst pointing out that indications are that a low point in the inflation cycle has been reached. SARB Governor Lesetja Kganyago said that the main changes in the inflation forecast relate to the exchange rate and has cautioned that an international trade war could push inflation expectations higher.
The Bank of Namibia announced this week that the MPC has decided to keep the repo rate unchanged at 6.75% due to foreign reserves having dropped by N$4.1 billion in the past three months. According to BoN, foreign reserves stood at N$26.1 billion at 31 March.