Venezuela annual inflation 180 percent: opposition newspaper

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela’s monthly inflation was 16.9 percent in September, the highest in a quarter-century, and has reached an annual rate of 179.5 percent, an opposition-leaning newspaper said on Thursday, citing a source close to the Central Bank.

Customers pick up groceries at a supermarket in Caracas September 9, 2014. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

To the consternation of economists and anger of political opponents of President Nicolas Maduro’s government, the Central Bank has released no price data this year after inflation hit 68.5 percent in 2014, the highest in the world.

El Nacional cited the source as saying the annual rate could rise even further than the 180 percent range in 2015, given anticipated fourth-quarter price pressures.

If correct, the 16.9 percent inflation figure for September is the second-highest monthly rate in Venezuelan history, according to Central Bank data.

In March 1989, Caracas inflation, which was how Venezuela measured prices until 2007, was 21.27 percent.

Maduro says opposition-aligned businessmen and political foes have been stoking prices by hoarding, price-gouging, smuggling and speculating on currency.

Critics, however, say high inflation, which also plagued Venezuela in the late 1980s and mid-1990s, has resulted this time from misguided socialist economic policies under Maduro and predecessor Hugo Chavez.

Spiraling prices and shortages of basic products are weighing heavily on the ratings of Maduro and the ruling Socialist Party ahead of parliamentary elections in December.

Central Bank officials said they could not confirm the figures reported in El Nacional. Nor did they know when official data would be given.

Most economists are predicting Venezuela’s inflation will be in three figures this year.

Bank of America estimated annual inflation at 122 percent in August, and Moody’s this week raised its forecast of annual inflation to 180 percent from 115 percent.

“The significantly higher rate of inflation reflects increased pressure on Venezuela’s economy and the substantial weakening of its domestic currency,” Moody’s said.

Reporting by Andrew Cawthorne and Corina Pons; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn