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Russian inflation rose faster than analysts forecast in December, staying near the six-year high that has prompted the central bank to warn more key-rate increases may be needed to tame price growth.

Annual inflation reached 8.39% this month from 8.4% in November, the Federal Statistics Service reported late Wednesday, citing preliminary data. That was above the forecast of 8.26% in a Bloomberg survey of economists. Prices gained 0.82% in a month, while inflation slowed slightly in the past week, according to the agency.

“It’s too early to expect softer rhetoric from the central bank,” said Irina Lebedeva, an economist at Uralsib Bank in Moscow, speaking before the data release. “The Bank of Russia will most likely raise the key rate again in February, I expect by 50 basis points, and then we will see.”

The central bank raised the benchmark rate by 100 basis points on Dec. 17 as it strives to restrain inflation that’s double its 4% target. That brought total tightening this year to 425 basis points, among the most aggressive in emerging markets. Bank of Russia Governor Elvira Nabiullina said one or more rate increases may still be needed to curb price growth, even as she indicated the prospect of imposing several hikes has reduced since October.

President Vladimir Putin said fast price growth is a major concern and he called on the central bank to bring inflation back to the target next year. Inflation was expected to be “slightly” above 8% at the end of this year, which is “a lot,” Nabiullina said earlier this week.

Forward-rate agreements currently point to more than 50 basis points of tightening in the next three months.

Inflation expectations surged to a six-year high this month, with households expecting price growth of 14.8% in the next 12 months.

Retail sales increased by 3.1% in November from a year earlier, after an upward revision of growth in the previous month to 4.3%, the statistics service also reported Wednesday. Annual growth in real wages slowed to 0.6% in the year to October, after a 2% rise in September, the agency said.


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