Retail inflation at 4-mth low of 4.44% on cheaper food, fuel

CPI IIP data today Will there be any surprises? Find out here

Figures released Tuesday by the U.S. Labor Department revealed that, on a year-over-year basis, the consumer price index rose 2.2%, a bit ahead of the 2.1% increase reported in January. 'As expected, CPI inflation eased to 4.44 percent in February 2018, compared to 5.07 percent in the previous month, with all the components witnessing a decline in prices except for health, clothing and footwear, transport and communication.

Retail inflation, which is an indicator of price rise has cooled down to a four-month low, since it was recorded at 4.88 per cent in November 2017.

"Tame core goods prices continue to keep inflation at bay, a reflection of the remaining global economic slack offsetting a tightening U.S. economy", he said. The consumer price inflation could be below 5 percent for the next two months followed by a rebound to 5.8-5.9 percent.

The news could help ease volatility on Wall Street, where fears of inflation and rising rates have spooked investors in recent weeks.

"We expect the RBI to allude to possible policy tightening at the next meeting in early April, as the concerns on growth slide", Prakash Sakpal, ING Asia economist in Singapore, said in a note published before Monday's data release. The RBI targets inflation over the medium term at 4% with an upper limit of 6% and a lower threshold of 2%.

What sets apart IIP growth in January is the strong growth registered in consumer durables, at 8% compared with 1.4% in the previous month. It was at 5.07 percent in January.

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Seperate data showed that factory output - determined by Index of Industrial Production (IIP) - soared to 7.5 per cent in January as against 3.5 per cent in the corresponding month of 2017.

Gold prices rebounded after testing support near an upward sloping trend line that comes in near 1,312.

Fuel and light inflation has seen increase of 6.80%. It is set to increase by just 0.2% for both headline and core, which should keep the core year over year pace unchanged at 1.8%.

Nevertheless, the recovery from the cash ban and the chaotic introduction of the consumption tax past year has been uneven.

And core inflation will likely jump next month because a sharp drop in the cost of cell phone services last year will fall out of the year-over-year data.

JPMorgan said that softening of inflation was nearly entirely underpinned by food prices. A second month of cooling consumer prices should act to counter the Reserve Bank of India's hawkish bias, staying its hand in April. Used auto and trucks prices declined after four straight monthly increases.

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