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Singapore Feb all-items CPI seen at -0.8 per cent year-on-year: Poll

[SINGAPORE] Singapore's all-items consumer price index (CPI) in February probably fell at the fastest year-on-year pace in three months, dragged down by falls in the prices of car permits, a Reuters poll showed.

The February data is the last reading of consumer prices before the central bank's semi-annual policy review in April. Any surprisingly weak result, especially for core CPI, might be seen as increasing the chances of monetary easing next month.

The median forecast in a Reuters survey of 13 economists was for the all-items CPI to fall 0.8 per cent in February from a year earlier. That would be the fastest drop since November, when headline CPI also fell 0.8 per cent.

In January, headline CPI fell 0.6 per cent from a year earlier.

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Headline CPI has been falling on a year-on-year basis since November 2014, dragged down by a slide in global oil prices as well as falls in housing rents and private road transport costs.

The poll also showed that the Monetary Authority of Singapore's (MAS) core inflation measure likely rose 0.4 per cent from a year earlier in February, the same as January's pace.

The central bank's core inflation gauge is the focus of monetary policy. It excludes changes in the price of cars and accommodation, which are influenced more by government policies.

A Reuters poll published in early March showed that the risk of more monetary easing was seen rising as global headwinds buffeted Singapore's trade-reliant economy.

However, most analysts said their baseline expectation was for the MAS to keep policy unchanged in April, barring risks such as a sharper slowdown in China.