Consumer prices down for 4th consecutive month in May

Consumer prices in Taiwan moved lower from a year earlier for the fourth consecutive month in May as international crude prices continued to decline amid concerns over a supply glut due to COVID-19. (CNA)

TAIPEI (CNA) — Consumer prices in Taiwan moved lower from a year earlier for the fourth consecutive month in May as international crude prices continued to decline amid concerns over a supply glut due to COVID-19, the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) said on Friday.

Data compiled by the DGBAS showed the consumer price index (CPI) for May fell 1.19 percent from a year earlier after a 0.96 percent fall in April. The decline in May was the steepest in more than 10 years.

Despite the sharp fall in the May CPI, the core CPI, which excludes vegetables, fruits and energy, rose 0.08 percent from a year earlier, the data indicated.

DGBAS specialist Chiu Shu-chun (邱淑純) told reporters that since crude prices have shown signs of rebounding, the May figure could be the lowest level and it is possible for the local CPI to bounce back in the near future.

Chiu added that since Taiwan’s economy remains in an uptrend despite the interruptions caused by COVID-19, there is little worry about a deflation in the country.

In late May, the DGBAS forecast Taiwan’s economy will grow 1.67 percent in 2020, although the latest forecast represented a downgrade of 0.70 percent from the previous estimate in February.

Due to a plunge in crude prices, transportation and communications charges fell 8.53 percent from a year earlier in May with fuel and lubricant prices diving 35.28 percent, the DGBAS said.

The virus spread prompted many consumers to stay home to avoid infections so education and entertainment expenses for May also fell 1.69 percent from a year earlier. Hotel charges and domestic tour expenses dropped 15.76 percent and 4.53 percent, respectively, the data showed.

Bucking the downturn, food prices in May rose 0.30 percent from a year earlier in May with prices of fruits and meat up 3.25 percent and 2.13 percent, respectively. Vegetable prices, however, fell 14.92 percent from a year earlier, offsetting an increase in food prices, the DGBAS said.

The cost of a basket of 17 government-monitored household necessities, including rice, pork, bread, eggs, sugar, cooking oil, shampoo and toilet paper, rose 0.99 percent in May from a year earlier, after a 0.01 percent drop in April, the DGBAS said.

At the same time, the wholesale price index (WPI) fell 11.60 percent from a year earlier in May, largely reflecting a drop in the prices of oil and coal products, chemical materials, drugs and base metals, the DGBAS said.

The import price index dropped 15.37 percent in May from a year earlier in Taiwan dollar terms and fell 11.72 percent in U.S. dollar terms, while the export price index declined 9.69 percent in Taiwan dollar terms and dropped 5.79 percent in U.S. dollar terms, the data indicated.

In the first five months of the year, the local CPI fell 0.11 percent from a year earlier, with the core CPI up 0.29 percent, while the WPI fell 7.57 percent year-on-year, the DGBAS said.