The inflation rate rose to 2.6 percent from 2.4 percent in February, the Federal Statistics Office in Neuchatel said today. That's the highest level since October 1993. Economists expected a rate of 2.5 percent, the median of 14 estimates in a Bloomberg survey shows. From the previous month, prices rose 0.3 percent.
Swiss consumer prices rose after oil reached $111.80 a barrel March 17 and the cost of commodities such as wheat and corn shot to new highs. Three weeks ago, the central bank raised the inflation forecast for this year to 2 percent, saying price increases ``run the risk of spinning out of control'' if the cost of oil keeps climbing.
The SNB left its target interest rate at a six-year high on March 13 as the growth outlook worsened and inflation accelerated.
The franc was little changed today, reaching 1.5832 against the euro at 10:41 a.m. in Zurich compared with 1.5839 yesterday.
Switzerland's currency is shouldering some of the burden of fighting price increases. The franc's 12 percent gain against the dollar this year is countering higher oil prices, and its 4.5 percent advance against the euro is making imports from the 15- nation currency area less expensive.
The cost of oil products rose 25 percent from a year earlier and 4.7 percent from the month before, today's release said. Food and beverages were up 2.8 percent on the year, and transportation costs rose 4.9 percent.
Even as an expansion slows in the U.S. and Europe, consumer demand in Switzerland is not letting up. Economic growth reached the fastest pace in more than two years in the fourth quarter, giving momentum to the start of this year. The SNB said in December that a slowing economy would bring inflation below 2 percent this year.