UPDATE 1-Ivory Coast posts deflation of -0.2 pct in February

Tue Mar 11, 2014 9:05am EDT

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ABIDJAN, March 11 (Reuters) - Ivory Coast recorded consumer price deflation of -0.2 percent year-on-year in February, slipping from inflation of 0.1 percent in January, the National Statistics Institute (NSI) reported on Tuesday.

Economists said the dip into negative territory was no reason for concern. The economy of Ivory Coast - the world's top cocoa producer - is reviving after a decade of political upheaval, and now makes up around 40 percent of the $80 billion economy of the West African CFA-franc currency zone.

The institute's monthly report showed housing and utility prices declined 0.6 percent, food and soft drink prices dropped 3.6 percent and transport costs were down 0.4 percent. Healthcare prices slipped 0.1 percent and communication costs were unchanged.

"There's no cause for alarm," said a senior official at the NSI, who asked not to be named. "The drop is due to a dip in certain food items such as fresh fish, unprocessed cereals and fresh vegetables."

Ivory Coast last experienced year-on-year deflation in April and May 2012, a year after a post-election civil war sent the prices of consumer goods sky-rocketing.

The conflict marked end of years of political turmoil. After a decade of low growth, the Ivory Coast's economy expanded by 9.8 percent in 2012 and around 9 percent last year.

NSI officials have previously said that the country's rapid growth fuelled inflation in early 2013 and that current figures reflect a stabilisation of the economy.

Samir Gadio, an emerging-markets strategist at Standard Bank, said that a deceleration in year-on-year inflation had been expected in the first quarter of 2014.

"But the magnitude of the drop exceeded expectations, suggesting that intrinsic month-on-month pressures remain benign despite the strong economic rebound underway," he told Reuters. (Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Additional reporting and writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Emma Farge and Larry King)

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