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January 23, 2009

Vietnam inflation at 17.48% in Jan, lowest in a year
Vietnam reported its 15th consecutive month of double-digit annual inflation on Friday, but the rate of 17.48 percent for January was the lowest in the Southeast Asian country since last February.

Reuters quoted the state statistics office estimated prices as showing a rise of 0.32 percent in January compared with December due to a bump in demand ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday. It was the first monthly rise since September.

Annual inflation in December was 19.89 percent.

Food prices, which make up 42.85 percent of the CPI basket, rose 38.55 percent in January compared to a year ago, the General Statistics Office said in its monthly report.

With the headline figure coming down, economists say Vietnam appears to have tamed inflationary pressures.

In the first half of last year, with credit expanding at an unsustainable rate, consumer prices soared and the trade deficit widened, nearly precipitating a currency crisis.

The trade gap has narrowed, too. On Thursday, the government estimated a trade deficit of $300 million in January, a fraction of the $2.41 billion deficit the country had in the same month last year.

Since the end of last year, with the global economy slowing, Hanoi has turned its focus to spurring economic growth.

However, the statistics office also reported that industrial output contracted by 4.4 percent in January compared with the same month last year.

"Industrial production in January continued to be affected by both the global economic crisis and the shutdown of production around the Tet holidays," it said.

It estimated January's industrial output was 50.64 trillion dong ($2.98 billion), down 8.6 percent from about 55.43 trillion dong in December. Output has been slowing for several months.

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