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Kuwait inflation drops to two-year low in May

Kuwait, June 27, 2012

Kuwait's annual inflation rate eased to a 25-month low of 2.8 per cent in May and prices edged down slightly from the previous month, mainly because of cheaper food, state news agency Kuna reported on Wednesday.

Inflation in the major oil exporter has been slowing gradually. It hit 3.3 per cent in April, down from a peak of 5.4 per cent in May 2011.

Consumer prices fell 0.1 per cent month-on-month in May, compared to a 0.6 per cent drop in April, Kuna said, citing data from the Central Statistics Office.

"The low inflation reading is testament to a weak demand climate and anaemic credit growth," said Liz Martins, senior regional economist at HSBC in Dubai.

"Even with the salary hikes we have seen in recent months, we don't expect a major pick-up in the short- to medium term."

Around 3,000 Kuwaiti customs workers went on a week-long strike for higher pay in March, disrupting port traffic, while employees at national carrier Kuwait Airways grounded planes for three days during a walkout.

The civil service commission eventually agreed to wage rises of 25 to 30 percent for public sector employees, and proposed increases of up to KD330 ($1,190) per month for Kuwaiti private sector workers.

Paul Gamble, head of research at Jadwa Investment in Riyadh, said there was very little inflationary pressure coming from abroad, while consumer and government spending were not increasing that much.

"In general, the political uncertainty has hindered project implementation, which has kept a lid on one aspect of inflation," he said.

Project spending in Kuwait has been slowed by political instability, which has seen eight governments come and go in just six years. On Tuesday, thousands of Kuwaitis protested against a court ruling that effectively dissolved a parliament dominated by opposition Islamists.

"June will be potentially sluggish but then we have Ramadan coming up, so we will obviously see the usual Ramadan impact on food prices," Gamble said.

Food prices normally rise during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins in late July, as families enjoy elaborate evening meals after a daylight fast.

In May, food costs, which account for almost a fifth of Kuwait consumer expenses, fell 1.3 per cent month-on-month, after a 2.6 per cent plunge in April. Transport prices edged up 0.1 per cent from the previous month, Kuna said.

Analysts polled by Reuters in March predicted average inflation in Kuwait of 4.5 per cent in 2012, down from a three-year high of 4.8 per cent last year.-Reuters




Tags: inflation | Kuwait | Food | costs | Consumer prices |

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