Singapore consumer prices fall in February for fourth straight month

SINGAPORE - A soft housing rental market and a fall in private road transport costs pushed inflation into negative territory for a fourth straight month in February, according to official data out Monday.

Consumer prices fell 0.3 per cent in February from the same period a year ago. The fall was sharper than the 0.2 per cent decline predicted by economists in a Bloomberg poll.

The last time Singapore experienced a prolonged drop in consumer prices - also known as deflation - was in 2009.

Accommodation costs, which carry the heaviest weight in the consumer price index, fell 2.1 per cent in February, after falling 1.9 per cent the month before, said the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) in a joint statement.

Meanwhile, lower COE (Certficate of Entitlement) premiums brought private road transport costs down 5.8 per cent, after a 5.0 per cent drop in January.

Core inflation - which excludes accommodation and private road transport costs and is seen as a better gauge of daily expenses - rose 1.3 per cent in February from a year ago, due to stronger food and services inflation. In January, core inflation had risen 1.0 per cent.

Monday's report may be the last inflation report before the MAS's next bi-annual policy review in April. The central bank manages Singapore's exchange rate to control imported inflation.