Consumer prices in Singapore increased at an even slower pace in February, as gasoline prices continued to fall and the demand for the country's goods dropped.

Monday, Singapore's Department of Statistics said the consumer price index rose 1.9% year-on-year in February, at a much slower pace compared to a 2.9% rise in the previous month. Moreover, consumer prices increased less than economists' expectations of a 2.6% rise.

This is the fifth month in a row since October that the consumer price inflation has eased, following the 26-year high of 7.5% in each of three months in the second quarter of last year.

In February, transport and communication prices, having a weight of 22% in the index, fell 5%. However, food prices, with a weight of 23%, rose 4.3% and price of housing, with a weight 21% was up 6.6%.

Excluding accommodation costs, consumer prices increased 0.5% in February.

Month-on-month, consumer prices fell 0.5% in February, following a 0.1% decline in January, reflecting a fall in prices from most of the sub groups.

During the month, price of food dropped 0.6%, while those of housing fell 0.5%. Price of transport and communication was down 0.1% and price of recreation and others declined 1.2%. However, price of clothing and footwear increased 1.2% in February. Excluding accommodation costs, consumer prices declined 0.6% in February.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, consumer prices fell 0.8% in February, after remaining unchanged in January.

For the first two months of the year, consumer prices increased 2.4% year-on-year, and excluding accommodation, the rise was 1%.

In a separate report, the statistical office said the inflation rate for the general households stood at 6.5% in 2008, sharply higher than the 2.1% logged in 2007. This is the highest rate in about 28 years, after an 8.2% rate clocked in 1981.

The data revealed that in 2008 the inflation rate was the highest for the poorest households at 7.4%, coming in much higher than the 2% rate logged in 2007. The report said the poor experienced a faster rise in prices than other income groups, as they faced higher food and accommodation costs along with electricity tariffs, which have a higher weight in their consumption baskets.

Meanwhile, a survey by the Monetary Authority of Singapore earlier in the month said the median consumer price inflation is expected to fall to 0.2% in 2009 from 1.7% reported earlier. For the first quarter, inflation is expected to come in at 2.2%.

At the same time, the survey also forecasts the gross domestic product, or GDP, to fall 8.5% in the first quarter, worse than the 3.4% decline reported in the December 2008 survey. For the whole year, the economy is expected to contract 4.9%, quicker than a 1% contraction forecast in the previous survey.

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