(Bloomberg) -- Annual inflation in urban parts of Egypt accelerated at its fastest pace in almost five years after a dramatic currency devaluation piled more pressure on consumers in the Middle East’s most populous country.
The index climbed 18.7% year-on-year in November, versus 16.2% the previous month, the state-run statistics agency CAPMAS said Thursday. The increase was driven by a 29.9% surge in food and beverage costs, the largest single component of the inflation basket.
On a monthly basis, consumer prices rose 2.3%, down from 2.6% in October.
The figures give the most detailed glimpse yet of how the pound’s second devaluation this year added to the strain on household budgets and businesses in the North African nation of 104 million people. The Oct. 27 move helped authorities reach an initial $3 billion loan deal with the International Monetary Fund.
One of the world’s biggest wheat importers, Egypt’s economy has been hit hard by the shockwaves of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, prompting it to seek help from its Gulf allies and the Washington-based lender. The IMF’s executive board is set to discuss the financing next week.
November’s data also raise the chances of the Egyptian central bank hiking interest rates again at its next monetary policy meeting on Dec. 22.
It raised the benchmark rate 200 points to 13.25% in an unscheduled meeting in October, the day of the last devaluation. Further hikes could help Egypt lure back foreign portfolio investment that fled the market as its inflation-adjusted interest rate turned negative.
Authorities may also announce a new inflation target this month, after global shocks and the devaluations shifted the outlook.
That announcement will be “critical to direct the market towards the expected policy-rate trajectory,” EFG Hermes Research said in a note this week. The regulator has already delivered a “significant tightening” by recently canceling a subsidized lending program that allowed some sectors to borrow at a reduced rate of 8%, the Egyptian investment bank said.
--With assistance from Tarek El-Tablawy and Abdel Latif Wahba.
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