Tue, Jan 05, 2016 - Page 15 News List

Thailand facing a disinflation fight on oil, weak demand


Thailand’s government warned that consumer prices might not turn positive as early as expected this year after slumping crude oil costs pushed down the nation’s inflation index for a 12th straight month last month.

An index of consumer prices fell 0.85 percent last month from a year earlier, exceeding the 0.76 percent drop expected by economists, data released yesterday by the Ministry of Commerce showed.

“The oil price is a key risk factor for inflation,” ministry chief Somkiat Triratpan said at a media briefing. “Inflation should be back to positive in the first quarter, but there is uncertainty because oil prices are lower than our estimate.”

Crude oil futures slid 11 percent last month and some forecasters expect prices to fall as low as US$15 a barrel amid slowing economic growth in China. Thailand relies on oil imports for more than 80 percent of its energy needs, state-controlled PTT Exploration and Production PCL said.

“Disinflationary pressures will likely persist into early 2016 on account of structurally lower oil prices and soft domestic demand,” Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd Singapore-based economist Weiwen Ng said yesterday in an interview, adding that inflation should bottom out in Thailand in the coming months.

Thailand’s core inflation, which excludes energy costs, fell to 0.68 percent last month from 0.88 percent in November.

In Indonesia, inflation slowed to 3.35 percent last month, the nation’s statistics office said yesterday. That is the lowest level since at least January 2010, data compiled by Bloomberg showed.

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