TOKYO: Japan’s core consumer price index fell 0.4% in February from a year earlier, weighed down by cheap electricity bills, but at a slower pace following a recent rise in energy prices, government data showed Friday.
Nationwide core consumer prices, excluding volatile fresh food items, dropped for the seventh straight month after declining 0.6% in January, according to the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, report agencies.The latest data showed the country’s CPI remained under downward pressure, far below the Bank of Japan’s 2% inflation target.
In February, electricity and gas bills sagged 7.8% and 6.2%, respectively, reflecting lower crude oil prices around last summer.
Gasoline prices lost 6.2%, but the pace of decline slowed from a 9.5% fall in January due to a recent pickup in crude oil prices amid expectations that the global economy will recover from the impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic, a ministry official said.
“A recent climb in crude oil prices contributed to making overall prices slow their pace of fall,” said a ministry official, adding that energy prices may have hit bottom in January and would further rise and boost overall prices in the coming months.
“The rise in energy prices could be one of the factors to lift consumer prices later this year after pushing up utility bills,” said Takeshi Minami, chief economist at the Norinchukin Research Institute.
“But price hikes (by business operators) are unlikely to spread immediately as household incomes are not growing. Downward pressure on prices remains strong,” he added.