Argentina Consumer Prices Rise by Higher-Than-Expected 1.9%

By Taos Turner Features Dow Jones Newswires

Consumer prices in Argentina rose at a faster-than-expected pace in September, renewing pressure on its central bank to crimp inflation.

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Prices jumped 1.9% from August, well above the 1.4% rate forecast by economists.

The inflation rate, reported by the statistics agency Thursday, underscores how hard it has been for President Mauricio Macri to fix a host of economic problems inherited from his predecessor, Cristina Kirchner.

"You can't do everything at once," said Gabriel Caamaño, an economist at Consultora Ledesma, a research firm, noting the other economic indicators are improving. "The problem is that core inflation is not falling."

Core inflation, which measures the price of goods and services unaffected by seasonal factors or government regulations, rose 1.6% in September. That's up from 1.4% the previous month.

The central bank had set an inflation target of 17% for 2017 but prices are already up 17.6% this year. September's data makes it likely that annual inflation will likely total closer to 22% or 23% this year, Mr. Camaaño said.

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Economists surveyed by the central bank expect consumer prices to rise 15.8% in 2018 and 11% the following year.

One reason Argentina is having such a tough time taming inflation is that Mr. Macri is raising utility rates, which the Kirchner administration kept artificially low for years. Capping those prices cost the government billions of dollars annually, creating a fiscal deficit that Mr. Macri is trying to reduce.

"We expect inflation to moderate slightly in coming months, but are of the view that monetary policy needs to remain tight in order to protect the integrity of the 2018 target," Goldman Sachs economist Alberto Ramos said in a report.

Almost all other key indicators, including economic growth, industrial production, poverty and employment, have been improving in recent months. Pollsters say voters are beginning to feel the benefits of Mr. Macri's economic policies and that this could favor his candidates in a midterm election later this month.

Write to Taos Turner at taos.turner@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 12, 2017 18:27 ET (22:27 GMT)