February 24, 2020 / 5:48 AM / 3 months ago

Singapore January core inflation hits four-year low as virus dims price outlook

Container ships are berthed at PSA's Pasir Panjang Terminal in Singapore July 15, 2019. Picture taken July 15, 2019. REUTERS/Edgar Su/Files

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore’s core inflation gauge in January hit its lowest level in four years, data on Monday showed, due to lower services and retail prices that authorities said would persist as the coronavirus outbreak dimmed the country’s economic outlook.

Core inflation rose 0.3% from a year earlier, well below analysts’ expectations of 0.8% in a Reuters poll.That was the lowest reading since December 2015.

Core inflation is the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s preferred price gauge for setting monetary policy. It excludes changes in the price of cars and accommodation, which are influenced more by government policies.

“In the quarters ahead ... economic uncertainty, including the effects of the COVID‐19 outbreak, will likely discourage firms from passing on any cost increases to consumers,” the trade ministry and the Monetary Authority of Singapore said in a joint statement.

The headline consumer price index in January rose 0.8% from a year earlier, slightly below poll expectations of 0.9%.

The authorities kept their official 2020 forecast range for both core and headline inflation at 0.5%-1.5%.

Reporting by John Geddie; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Sherry Jacob-Phillips

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