Regional Consumer and Producer Prices Upsurge

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A new year has dawned and with it, endless possibilities have arisen concerning Asia Pacific’s economic forecast. Will regional inflation decline at a steady pace this year? Is there any signification that consumer confidence will improve during the first quarter? Are producer prices higher or lower now than they were in recent months?

Has regional foreign trade strengthened or weakened lately? And, are there any signs that bank policy rates will be adjusted?

The following figures, released in early January, provide an indication of the region’s current financial situation and ongoing economic recovery.

On a year-to-year basis, China’s producer prices declined by 1.9 percent in December, a slight improvement in comparison to November’s year-ago prices, which had diminished by 2.2 percent. As a matter of fact, the nation’s annual producer prices have steadily increased since September, a month in which prices dropped by 3.6 percent. A majority of the nation’s other year-ago producer prices also augmented from November to December, including ferrous metals, foodstuffs, and raw materials. As a result of recent trends, some economists have projected the nation’s annual producer prices will continue to rise on a month-to-month basis this quarter.

South Korea:
For the second consecutive month, the Bank of Korea’s consumer sentiment index remained unchanged in December, at 99, matching many economists’ projections. Although the index has not been higher than 100 since June, some economists believe Korean consumers’ confidence levels will rise during the first half of 2013, as the nation’s economic situation is expected to improve. After all, two of the index’s three sub-indices — the employment situation and the domestic economic situation readings– augmented last month. Furthermore, the index’s clothing and durable spending plan sub-indexes also increased, rising to 97 and 89, respectively. Some global economists anticipate these measures will steadily uptick during the first quarter.

Prior to the release of National Statistics Taiwan’s latest inflation figures, Moody’s Analytics projected the nation’s consumer prices would rise by 1.4 percent on a year-ago basis. However, as a surprise to some economists, consumer prices were higher than expected, as Taiwan’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased by 1.6 percent from December 2011 to December 2012, rising to 109.8. But, other annual inflation measurements were slightly lower; on a year-to-year basis, core, clothing, and housing prices rose by 1.1, 1.4, and 1.3 percent, respectively, in December. Moody’s Analytics also revealed that 2012’s full-year inflation was below two percent, leading many economists to believe annual consumer prices will remain low in early 2013.

As many global economists projected, the Bank of Thailand retained its policy rate at 2.75 percent during its first meeting of 2013. After lowering the rate by .25 percent in October, the Bank has decided to not raise or lower it since as regional – and global – economic recovery remains sluggish. In early January, the nation’s final inflation figures of 2012 were also released to the general public and according to the data, headline consumer prices rose by 3.6 percent from December 2011 to December 2012, a significant upsurge  when compared to November’s year-ago statistics. From November 2011 to November 2012, the national Consumer Price Index increased by 2.7 percent. Nonetheless, Thailand’s annual core inflation is still quite low, measuring at 1.8 percent in December. Consequently, some economists have predicted the Bank’s policy rate will remain unchanged in February.

After recording a trade surplus of $579 million in July, Vietnam’s General Statistics Office has generally recorded a monthly trade deficit, ranging from $50 million to $500 million, prior to adjustments. Unfortunately, this trend continued in December, as the Office verified the nation once again recorded a monthly trade deficit, of $200 million, in spite of a recent revision of November’s figures, which had risen from a deficit of $50 million to a surplus of $395 million. But, when compared to December 2011’s statistics, national exportation and importation did augment last month, rising on a year-to-year basis by 14.4 and 13.3 percent, respectively. Still, the latest trends of monthly trade deficits are not very encouraging, leading some economists to project national foreign trade will remain weak during the first quarter.