Thai Feb headline CPI falls for fifth straight month

BANGKOK: Thailand's headline consumer price index dropped for the fifth straight month in February, and the commerce ministry said prices could fall through April due mainly to energy subsidies.

The headline consumer price index (CPI) in February fell 0.77% from a year earlier, compared with a forecast drop of 0.8% in a Reuters poll, and against the central bank's target range of 1% to 3%.

The decline was driven by government energy subsidies and lower food prices, Director of Trade Policy and Strategy Office Poonpong Naiyanapakorn told a press conference.

The CPI might fall 0.7% to 0.8% in the first quarter year-on-year, but it could pick up in May due to a low base in 2023 and the end of energy subsidies.

"Negative inflation is not a worry yet as the prices of most products have not decreased and core inflation is still positive," he said.

In February, the core CPI, which strips out volatile food and energy prices, rose 0.43% year-on-year, compared to a forecast increase of 0.5% in the poll.

The ministry is maintaining its forecast for headline CPI at between -0.3% and +1.7% this year, which aligns with the current economic situation, it said.

With falling headline consumer prices, the government is piling pressure on the central bank to cut the key interest rate from a decade-high of 2.50% to help support a flagging economy.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, who is also finance minister, has repeatedly said that interest rate cuts would help Southeast Asia's second-largest economy as it contends with high household debt and the impact of China's slowdown.

Bank of Thailand Governor Sethaput Suthiwartnarueput has said rate cuts would not help the economy much and could create more borrowing, noting the key rate is among the lowest in the world.

In the January-February period, the headline CPI dropped 0.94% year-on-year, while the core CPI rose 0.47%. - Reuters

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Thailand , CPI , Inflation


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