The Namibian annual inflation rate moderated markedly to 3.6% y/y in January following the 5.2% y/y increase in prices recorded in December. Inflation was 1.6% m/m, the largest monthly increase in prices within the last twelve months, as is usually the case in January due to rental price adjustments. The slowdown in annual inflation was mainly driven by the housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels category which slowed to 3.6% in January from 9.2% observed in December. On a year on year basis, overall prices in four of the twelve basket categories rose at a quicker rate in January, with six categories recording slower rates of inflation and two categories saw unchanged rates of inflation. Prices for goods increased by 2.9% y/y, while prices for services increased by 4.4% y/y, a material slowdown from the 8.0% increase recorded in December.
Despite recording a substantially slower rate of inflation, housing and utilities remains the largest contributor to annual inflation by way of being the largest weighted category. Overall the housing and utilities category recorded inflation of 3.6 y/y, which is significantly lower than the 9.2% y/y increase in December. This lower rate of inflation was caused mainly by rental inflation which slowed from 9.7% y/y in January of 2017 to 2.6% y/y in January 2018. On a monthly basis, rental payments increased by 2.6%. Rental adjustments are put in effect at the beginning of the year and this base is often carried forward for the rest of the year. Lower rental inflation in January this year should thus translate to lower overall CPI figures for the rest of the year. The rest of the subcategories remained relatively unchanged m/m, with regular maintenance and repairs on dwellings increasing by 0.1% m/m while electricity, gas and other fuels increased by 0.3% m/m.
Transport, with a weighting of about 14%, serves as the third largest basket category, accounting for 0.8% of annual inflation in January and making it the second largest contributor this month. Transport costs increased by 0.6% m/m and 6.3% y/y. Oil prices rallied for much of January, reaching US$71 a barrel, the highest level since late 2014. A strengthening rand that began its surge mid-December, however, allowed for fuel pump prices to remain unchanged for a second consecutive month.
Inflation in the alcoholic beverages and tobacco category was 4.2% y/y and 0.2% m/m. Tobacco prices increased by 3.4% y/y, while alcohol prices increased at a slightly quicker pace of 4.4% y/y, according to the NSA.
Namibian annual inflation at 3.6% y/y is once again lower than that of South Africa, with South Africa inflation expected to average at 4.9% in 2018, according to the SARB’s January MPC statement. Food price inflation slowed since South Africa recovered from the drought, despite the current drought experienced in the Western Cape. Likewise, Namibia also emerged from the drought and experienced the same moderation in food inflation. Inflation expectations will further be driven by exchange rates, with the rand having strengthened since the transition of power within the ANC. The currency continued to gain ground following the parliamentary election of Cyril Ramaphosa as president of South Africa.