Consumer prices in Argentina rose faster than expected in March as the country went into a nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Monthly inflation accelerated for the first time in four months to 3.3 percent, according to data published by the INDEC national statistics bureau on Wednesday. That was higher than the 2.6 percent median forecast of analysts surveyed by the Central Bank and private estimates that pointed to three percent.
Annual inflation slowed to 48.4 percent, from 50.3 percent in February, when a rate of two percent was recorded.
In February, inflation was 2 percent, while in January, it was 2.3 percent. Prices, however, rose again as the school year began after the summer vacations.
Argentina went into lockdown on March 20 and people must stay home until at least April 26, President Alberto Fernández announced last week.
The rise in the inflation rate was led by a 17 percent jump in education prices as schools briefly opened for the academic year. Communication prices also rose faster than the headline rate, with food and beverages rising 3.9 percent.
INDEC said that data collection for categories like education was affected by the virus, allowing staff to only poll by phone and email instead of in-person conversation.
In the first quarter of the year, prices have already risen in Argentina by 7.5 percent, with most experts predicting inflation will continue to rise as the shutdown from the virus pandemic continues.
For April, economists forecast a somewhat slower rise for April due to the drop in activity and consumption, as well as the government's move to tamp down prices. In March, the prices of fresh food products rose significantly amid logistical difficulties – a result of the coronavirus arriving in Argentina.
Inflation in Greater Buenos Aires came in at 3.6 percent, with the highest increases registered in the northwest (3.8 percent).