Philippines inflation falls to two-decade low

Philippines, Investment in the Philippines, Asia, Economy, Inflation, Deflation
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Image source: The Financial Times

If you need evidence that the world faces a "third deflationary wave," look no further than the Philippines.

Annual inflation in the Philippines was just 0.6 per cent in August, the lowest reading in more than two decades of records. Economists had forecast a 0.7 per cent reading, following a 0.8 per cent print in July.

The central bank targets headline inflation target at 3 per cent, plus or minus one per cent. Actual inflation has come in below that band for four months.

The downward trajectory in inflation across much of Asia reflects weak demand, lower commodity prices and a decline in costs for manufactured goods. Currency devaluation has done little to thwart the deflationary threat: the Philippines' peso has depreciated more than 15 per cent since March 2013 and now trades at ₱ 46.79 per dollar, about 8 per cent weaker than its five year average.

Core inflation, which strips out volatile items to get a better sense of underlying trends, looks a little better on the whole but its August reading was well below forecasts. In August the reading was 1.6 per cent year-on-year, versus forecasts at 1.9 per cent. The downward trajectory is clear: in March the reading was 2.7 per cent; one year ago it was 3.4 per cent.

A quarterly index of consumer price inflation across Asia (ex-Japan) confirms this trend is found across the continent. The second quarter reading of 2.06 per cent was about half the rate seen in 2012 and a two-thirds below the rate in 2011. As explained in the FT earlier this week, these trends are likely to intensify as the Federal Reserve lifts interest rates, causing the US dollar to rise and yield-seeking investors to take cash out of emerging markets.

"In sum," wrote Dominic Rossi, global chief investment officer at Fidelity Worldwide Investment, "this third deflationary wave will mean that world GDP will continue to operate at a level below potential output. Downward pressure on prices will persist and a supply-side contraction in developing nations will be required before prices stabilize. A further fall in potential global output is now unavoidable. The adjustments to GDP forecasts are still ahead of us." - The Financial Times
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