Headline inflation in Trinidad and Tobago has been “relatively subdued” for the first four months of 2014, the Central Bank said yesterday.
In its monetary policy announcement, the bank said the latest data available from the Central Statistical Office (CSO) indicated that on a year-on-year basis, headline inflation slowed 3.3 per cent in April 2014.
Core inflation, which excludes volatile commodity prices like food, slowed slightly in April following an up-tick in March to 2.7 per cent; this was still higher than the 2.0 per cent recorded at the end of 2013. Food inflation continued to slow, measuring 4.1 per cent in April compared with 6.7 per cent and 10.2 per cent in March 2014 and December 2013, respectively.
Two events temporarily affected energy production in the first two months of 2014, the bank said: BPTT took down its Savonette Platform to accommodate drilling at another well and Petrotrin undertook planned maintenance at its Pointe-a-Pierre oil refinery.
While energy output did bounce back by March, as a result of these actions, natural gas output fell 2.5 per cent (year-on-year) during the first quarter of 2014, while crude oil output slipped by just over 2.5 per cent over the same period.
Methanol and fertiliser experienced higher production in the first quarter of 2014.
Initial indicators suggest a favourable outturn in the non-energy sector in the first three months of 2014. Local sales of cement increased by around 7 .5 per cent and new car sales rose by more than 12.5 per cent in the first quarter of 2014, suggesting that the construction and distribution sectors maintained their growth momentum, the bank noted.
As a sign of improving corporate activity, business lending emerged from a year-long decline, posting growth of a little over 2.0 per cent in February and increasing further by close to 3.5 per cent in March. Consumer loans maintained a relatively robust rate of expansion, growing by nearly 6.0 per cent in March, driven by motor vehicle loans and loans for home renovations, while there was a pick-up in outstanding credit card balances. Real estate mortgage lending continued to post double-digit growth rates in February and March 2014.