India’s inflation edges toward 8 pct as hits 44-month high

NEW DELHI, May 16, 2008 (AFP) – India’s inflation rate accelerated to a 44-month high of nearly eight percent on Friday, dealing a fresh blow to the government which fears a voter backlash. Annual inflation climbed more than two-tenths of a percentage point to 7.83 percent for the week ended May 3 from 7.61 percent the previous week, according to the Wholesale Price Index, India’s closest watched cost monitor.

The rise, which exceeded analysts’ expectations of around 7.5 percent, was mainly due to price increases of staple foods like fruits and vegetables and manufactured goods.

Both India and China, whose economies are the world’s two swiftest expanding, are battling to wrestle down inflation, which has been fed by high food costs and demand from increasingly affluent consumers.

India’s inflation rate was last hovering around the 7.8 percent mark in September 2004 while China’s inflation is already close to 12-year highs of 8.5 percent.

India’s inflation “situation is indeed worrying,” said Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram, who warned steel and cement manufacturers of more unspecified “administrative measures” if price cuts they have announced are not enough to h