March 25, 2019 / 5:19 AM / in a month

Singapore's core inflation rate hits nine-month low as central bank decision looms

People chat as the skyline of Singapore's financial district is seen in the background April 14, 2014. REUTERS/Edgar Su

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore’s core inflation rate eased to a nine-month low in February, reinforcing expectations that the central bank will keep monetary policy unchanged when it meets next month.

The core inflation rate was 1.5 percent on a year-on-year basis, data showed on Monday, its lowest since May 2018, and below the median forecast in a Reuters poll for a 1.7 percent rise.

“The lower than-expected inflation print basically reinforces our call for MAS to stay unchanged (in April),” UOB economist Barnabas Gan said, referring to the Monetary Authority of Singapore, the city-state’s central bank.

The MAS tightened policy at each of its semi-annual meetings in 2018, the first tightening in six years. Its meeting next month comes against the backdrop of a raft of underwhelming domestic data and concerns over the health of the global economy.

The core inflation measure - closely watched by central bankers - excludes changes in the prices of cars and accommodation, which are more heavily influenced by government policies.

Meanwhile, Singapore’s headline consumer price index edged up 0.5 percent in February from a year earlier, due to more gradual declines in private road transport and accommodation costs.

The median forecast in the poll was for all-items CPI to rise 0.5 percent. In January, headline CPI rose 0.4 percent year-on-year.

Singapore will release February industrial production data on Tuesday. Factory output shrank to its lowest in two-and-a-half years in January.

Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan and John Geddie; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier and Kim Coghill

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