Egypt’s Record Food Price Surge Puts More Big Rate Hikes in Play

Egypt’s monthly food prices soared at the fastest pace on record, sending inflation in urban parts of the country sharply higher in January and adding to the urgency for the central bank to resume interest-rate hikes, Bloomberg News reported. The surge in cost increases was a surprise to many economists even after last month’s steep currency devaluation heaped more pressures on consumers in the Middle East’s most populous nation. Food and beverage prices, the single largest component of the inflation basket, jumped an annual 48% in January, the state-run statistics agency CAPMAS said Thursday. The headline consumer-price index climbed 25.8% year-on-year, up from 21.3% the previous month. But even excluding volatile items such as food and energy, annual core inflation topped 31% to reach the quickest since late 2017. The figures may encourage the central bank to resume a cycle of monetary tightening after a surprise decision last week to leave rates on hold. Egypt’s government has said that tackling soaring prices for food and other commodities is its top priority for the country where a large proportion lives around or below the poverty line. Read more.