Estonian prices stop falling

  • The price level was lower in May than a year earlier, but consumer prices have climbed consistently since the start of this year
  • At the start of the year the oil price started its next cyclical rise, helping consumer prices to increase
  • Deflation should end in the second half of the year after two years

Data from Statistics Estonia show prices falling further in May from a year earlier, with goods and services 0.9% cheaper than they were last May. Prices have risen slightly but steadily in monthly terms since the start of this year and in May consumer prices were up 0.1% on April. In the first five months of the year, the price level rose by a total of 1.4%.

Heat and electricity were cheaper in May than a year previously, which helped bring prices down. The oil price began rising on global markets in January, but its previous very low level means it has not yet led to a rise in inflation. Higher oil prices will be seen in the Estonian consumer price index from the third quarter, ending two years of deflation. Prices for food mainly fell in May with the exception of alcohol, which was more expensive because of the rise in excise rates at the start of the year. Part of the fall in food prices was due to seasonal price changes.

Wage growth increased in the first quarter to 8.1% and unemployment was low, and this has supported domestic demand growth. This can be seen in the turnover volume of retail companies, which were up on average 6.7% in the first four months of the year. Despite increasing demand and sales volumes, inflation for consumer goods has remained low. Prices have risen moderately probably because wholesale prices have been favourable, which has compensated for the rise in labour costs. The trade margins of retail companies increased in the first quarter to a record 31%. It should be noted in this that the margins covered only a part of the increased expenses, including the rapid growth in labour costs, as the profits of retail companies fell at the same time.

Service price inflation slowed in May from 2.1% to 1.2%. Rent prices have stopped rising quite so fast, which is in line with the slowing growth in real estate prices. Rents were still up 6.5% over the year in May, and rising rent prices are still the most important factor among services. Higher wage costs have created extra costs for companies providing market-based services, and that is probably why prices have risen for leisure services. Inflation is currently low for transport services, but faster price rises in transport are to be expected as the oil price continues to climb.

Source: Bank of Estonia

Author: Rasmus Kattai, Economist at Eesti Pank

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