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Car fuel and coffee prices continue to climb

Austrian inflation has reached the lowest rate since January 2011.

Statistik Austria announced yesterday (Weds) that products and services on offer in the country were 2.6 per cent dearer in February 2012 than in the same month of 2011. However, Austrians might not experience what could be considered as a normalisation of price developments at first sight as figures also indicate immense energy sector price hikes.

Car fuel was 10 per cent more expensive in February 2012 than in February 2011 while people heating their homes with gas had to fork out 11 per cent more for the same amount of the product. Flat rents rose by 4.3 per cent while electricity prices remained stable. Some fruits were around 50 per cent cheaper last month than in the same month of 2011. The price for laptops dropped strongly as well (minus 17 per cent).

An Austrian household’s weekly shopping costs 4.9 per cent more on average last month than the same time last year.  Labour Chamber (AK) experts and pensioners’ associations have been considering the so-called shopping basket price checks and the consumer price index investigations as more important than the general inflation. They criticise that inflation figures are blurred by factors such as the price for limousines and other products which have no impact on most people’s budgets.

Clothes were cheaper in February 2012 than in the same month of 2011 while the price of coffee, dairy products and non-alcoholic drinks kept climbing. Austria takes a midfield position in the European Union (EU) with its most recent inflation rate. Economically challenged Hungary registered the strongest increase of prices at 5.8 per cent. People living in Estonia and Poland have to cope with strong price hikes too at 4.4 per cent each. None of the three countries are, in contrast to Austria, part of the Eurozone. With Sweden (plus one per cent), a non-Eurozone member recorded the lowest inflation among the EU-27 last month.

Germany’s inflation was 2.5 per cent last month. The pricing policies of the country’s supermarkets are often compared to Austrian shops’ prices by AK and other consumer information institutions. Investigations usually reveal that supermarkets in Vienna, Salzburg and other cities charge more for the same products than their counterparts in Munich and Berlin.

Michael Blass, the head of the Austrian Foodstuff Industry Association, criticised today that AK experts always check differences between Austria and Germany instead of comparing product prices in Austria with those in northern Italy, the Czech Republic or Switzerland. Speaking to the Kurier, Blass said: "Austrian households spend 22 per cent more for energy and housing today than five years ago. Food spending rose by just 6.4 per cent at the same time."

Blass dismissed claims that the domestic food industry and Austria’s supermarkets were charging too much. He said Austria would be "flooded" by foreign competitors if that was true. However, Blass also warned that prices might climb further depending on how much oil cost on global trading markets.

Austrian households invested 220 Euros on food on average a month in 2011, according to Agrarmarkt Austria (AMA). The agricultural branch authority said that another 110 Euros were spent in cafes and restaurants. The institution examined the spending habits of 2,500 households across the country to determine these figures.

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