No reprieve for consumers coming this week at interest rate announcement

SA Reserve Bank governor Lesetja Kganyago. File photo: ANA

SA Reserve Bank governor Lesetja Kganyago. File photo: ANA

Published May 26, 2024


The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) will be announcing its latest decision by the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) later this week on the repurchase rate for the country.

Hot on the heels of underwhelming inflation data that was released last week, which was well below the SARB’s target range, it is likely that consumers will not be getting a reprieve with a rate cut.

Data from Statistics SA (StatsSA) this past week showed that headline inflation softened to 5.2% in April year-on-year, down from 5.3% in March and 5.6% in February, as general food inflation slowed except for vegetables, fruit and hot beverages.

Inflation remained stubbornly high and well above the SARB’s preferred level of 4.5% of the 3–6% target range.

If consumer prices remain stubbornly high, the SARB will not taper its monetary policy until inflation is well contained within the midpoint of its target range.

The SARB has kept interest rates at a 14-year high of 8.25% since May 2023

FNB senior economist Koketso Mano said fuel inflation should lift again following the near 40 cents increase in petrol prices, but the fall in diesel prices means the total magnitude will be muted.

“Ultimately, headline inflation is expected to average above the 4.5% target this year. This means that monetary policy should remain unchanged for most of the year,” Mano said.

“This is further entrenched by expectations that Fed rate cuts will be shallower and later. We currently only see a potential 25 basis points cut at the SARB’s last meeting for the year.”

“While the April inflation outcome is encouraging, we still expect the SARB to keep interest rates unchanged at 8.25% in May 2024. Considering that headline inflation is projected to continue to moderate, and that monetary policy is forward-looking in nature, we still see a possibility that the SARB may start cutting interest rates in the second half of 2024. We have, however, scaled back our expectation from 75 basis points worth of cuts in 2024 to 50 basis points, on persistent upside risks to inflation,” Sanisha Packirisamy, an economist at Momentum Investments said.

Meanwhile, Abigail Moyo, a spokesperson of the trade union Uasa said that consecutive decreases in the annual consumer price index is good news for consumers and workers.

“The high cost of essential services and goods remains a huge concern in terms of affordability for consumers and workers with households and families. Although the inflation rate remains above the 4.5% midpoint of the South African Reserve Bank’s (SARB) target, we hope the slight decrease recorded in the past two months will positively impact consumers on the MPC repo rate to be announced later this week.

“The “new normal” and the aligned cost of living in a challenged economy make for devastating circumstances many can’t overcome. Hence, we always remind businesses and stakeholders of consumers’ daily hardships as they try to survive. Consumer inflation remains a considerable contributor to financial pressure on consumers plagued by the high cost of living,“ Moyo further added.