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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        24  February 2011

Singapore inflation hits 2-year high

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In January Singapore's inflation reached a 2-year high, its highest level in 25 months.

Data released on Wednesday by the Department of Statistics (DOS) showed that the consumer price index (CPI) increased by 5.5 percent on-year.

That was the fastest year-on-year increase in prices since December 2008 and higher than the 4.8 percent CPI forecast by economists and the 4.6 percent on-year rise in December last year.

Standard Chartered Bank economist Alvin Liew said this was "unlikely to be the peak inflation reading for Singapore".

Mr. Liew added that with the "Chinese New Year in February, Singapore may yet to see inflation rise even higher towards the six percent year-on-year mark."

Rising costs of transport, housing and food have pushed Singapore's inflation to its highest level in more than two years.

The spurt in inflation is in line with the trend in most Asian economies.

However, analysts said Singapore's inflation rate is not a cause for alarm as the government had already warned that price gains would be steeper in the first half of this year.

Leong Wai Ho, senior regional economist, Barclays Capital, said: "I think a large part of the inflation in Singapore is induced by the government policy. So the COE price spike was the result of attempts to curb the car population. If you take that away, inflation in Singapore is much more manageable.

"If you look at the MAS' underlying inflation measure, that has not gone up to the same extent compared to the total headline inflation. It tells us that for the broader base of prices, they have not moved as much."

On a year-on-year basis, MAS' core inflation measure eased to 2.0 percent, from 2.1 percent in December last year.

DOS data showed transport costs shot up by 18.4 percent on-year in January, led by higher car and petrol prices.

Housing-related costs rose 5.3 percent due to higher accommodation costs and electricity tariffs.

Food prices, meanwhile, increased 2.8 percent. The gains came from higher costs of prepared meals, fresh seafood and vegetables.

Analysts said rising material, labour and rental costs for businesses are likely to get passed on to consumers.

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