CAIRO- Egypt's annual urban consumer inflation fell slightly to 5.1% in March, but prices rose on a month-on-month basis as stockpiling by households amid the coronavirus outbreak pushed up food prices, official data showed on Thursday.
Core inflation, which strips out volatile items such as food, stood at 1.89% in March, easing from 1.9% in February, the official statistics agency CAPMAS said.
Annual consumer inflation at 5.1%, down from 5.3% in February, was the lowest level since November.
Month-on-month urban inflation stood at 0.6% compared with 0 in February, the agency said.
"The numbers were expected ... the rise was in the monthly prices, but on the annual basis, there was a decline in prices," said Radwa El-Swaify, head of research at Pharos Securities Brokerage.
"There was intense buying by citizens because of the curfew and fear of the coronavirus ... ," El-Swaify added.
Egypt introduced a nationwide night-time curfew to try and contain the spread of the coronavirus, which has infected 1,560 people in Egypt and caused 103 deaths.
Last month Egypt's central bank slashed its main interest rates by three percentage points, to 10.25% for overnight lending and 9.25% for the overnight deposits, at a surprise meeting as a "preemptive" move to support the economy in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Naeem Brokerage said the March inflation figures were positive for policymakers because prices of volatile food items remained largely in control despite unfavourable factors centred around the new coronavirus outbreak.
"Egypt’s real interest rate still remains above 7%, one of the highest among emerging economies," it said in a note.
Finance Minister Mohamed Maiit told the Al Arabiya news channel on Thursday that foreign investment in Egyptian treasuries stood at between $13.5 billion and $14 billion, below the December level.
Foreign investment in Egyptian government debt instruments was $22 billion at the end of December.
(Reporting by Amina Ismail, Ehab Farouk and Aidan Lewis, Writing by Amina Ismail Editing by David Holmes, William Maclean, Susan Fenton) ((firstname.lastname@example.org; +20 2 2394 8114;))