Saudi Arabia is expected to keep interest rates at two per cent to curb inflation which has remained above five per cent because of an upswing in the domestic economy, high rents and other factors, the Gulf Kingdom’s largest bank said.
Rising inflation which has accompanied high growth in the largest Arab economy is now the main challenge of Saudi monetary officials although they have not announced any measures to mop up liquidity in the local market, National Commercial Bank (NCB) said in its weekly report.
It cited official data showing March’s cost of living index matched February’s rate of 5.4 per cent on an annual basis to record the seventh consecutive month above five per cent. It said the main driver is attributed to the real estate market as rent for flats and villas has risen by 12.3 and 7.5 per cent Y/Y, respectively.
However, the sub-category index has somewhat eased at 8.9 from 9.3 per cent during the previous month, the report showed.
Food prices also continue their upward trajectory by gaining 5.1 per cent Y/Y by the end of March while another recent concern has been educational expenses.
According to NCB, prices have been range bound between 0.6 and1.3 per cent during the period July 2009-September 2011. Over the past six month, prices have accelerated at an average of 3.4 per cent that raises concerns.
On a regional basis, Western Saudi cities have been the highest contributors to the inflation rate as Madina and Tabuk recorded the highest inflation rates at around 0.8 per cent annually, the report said.
“The liquid state of the Saudi market will support elevated prices. Officials are expected to keep the benchmark interest rate at two per cent as its policy is paralleled to that of the United States.… SAMA has not announced any measures of absorbing liquidity from the market, yet.”