Consumer demand 'alive' during lockdown as March inflation eases to 2.5 percent


Posted at Apr 07 2020 09:12 AM | Updated as of Apr 07 2020 10:55 AM

Consumer demand 'alive' during lockdown as March inflation eases to 2.5 percent 1
Residents buy vegetables and fruits at a pop-up market in Elliptical Road, Quezon City on April 3, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA -- (UPDATE) Inflation in March eased from the previous month, with millions locked down in their homes to fight the coronavirus pandemic, official data released Tuesday showed.

The consumer price index rose 2.5 from 2.6 percent in February. The median forecast of economists in a Bloomberg poll was for a 2.3-percent rise while the central bank's research arm forecasted a 2 to 2.8-percent increase.

"We’re seeing that demand is still alive and well. There’s still demand to be able to meet the demand of basic goods. That’s also good producers, it also means they’re still earning," Security Bank economist Dan Roces said.

"But in a way, it’s also reflective of some disruption in the supply chain," he said. "If its extended, we’ll probably see the same behavior in terms of consumption."

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia described March inflation as "benign."

World oil prices tumbled in March as millions around the world were told to stay at home to halt the spread of COVID-19. Consumption was also limited to food and medical supplies as public transport and shopping malls were shut.

Luzon island, home to half the Philippines' 100 million people, was placed on quarantine from March 17. President Rodrigo Duterte extended the lockdown to April 30.

In the Philippines, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Gov. Benjamin Diokno said there was room for more policy action to address the "real" risk of a recession.

Diokno cut 50 basis points off the benchmark interest rate last March, bringing it to 3.25 percent. He also cut the reserve requirement ratio for banks by 200 points, a move aimed at freeing up more cash to circulate in the economy.