Cape Town - The South African Reserve Bank (Sarb) left its benchmark interest rate
unchanged at 5.0% on Wednesday, citing concerns about rising food prices, inflation
and a depreciating rand exchange rate in a period of slowing growth.
The prime lending rate thus remains at 8.5%.
The decision follows an unexpected surge in headline consumer inflation to 5.9% year-on-year in February, from 5.4% in
Data from Statistics South Africa released earlier Wednesday also showed
inflation increasing 1.0% on a month-on-month basis in February
compared with 0.3% in January.
Economists had expected inflation to come in at 5.6%
year-on-year and 0.8% month-on-month in February.
Sarb governor Gill Marcus expressed concern about the affect of the Eskom tariff hike on inflation, with the central bank estimating inflation to average 5.9% in 2013.
The rand exchange rate is still posing the biggest threat to inflation, she said.
Marcus said the rand is expected to remain volatile amid local and global turmoil.
The bank forecast growth for 2013 at 2.7%, below potential growth of 3.3%, Marcus said.
Marcus said labour strife in the mining sector still poses growth risks.
She said the petrol price remains an upside risk. The pump price of petrol increased by R1.24 a litre since the beginning of the year and is expected to go up again in April.
Follow Fin24 on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest.