Singapore June core inflation hits 13-year high, tightening risks in focus

People shop for bags in Singapore on April 24, 2017.
PHOTO: Reuters

SINGAPORE - Singapore's key consumer price gauge rose at its fastest pace in more than 13 years, official data showed on Monday (July 25), increasing pressure on the central bank to consider tightening monetary policy again later this year if inflation pressures persist.

The data showed inflation rising across a broad set of categories including services, food, retail and utilities.

The core inflation rate - the central bank's favoured price measure - rose to 4.4 per cent in June on a year-on-year basis. A Reuters poll of economists had forecast a 4.2 per cent increase in June.

Headline inflation rose to 6.7 per cent, compared with economists' forecast of 6.2 per cent.

"Our base case remains for the Monetary Authority of Singapore to tighten its FX policy settings again in October," said Brian Tan, senior regional economist at Barclays, which also raised its full-year inflation forecast following the data.

The MAS manages monetary policy through exchange rate settings, rather than interest rates, as trade flows dwarf its economy.

Tan sees a 50 basis point slope increase in October to an estimated 2.0 per cent and noted the high risk of another upward re-centring as "core inflation is likely to surprise the central bank to the upside again."

Singapore's central bank tightened its monetary policy in a surprise move on July 14, the fourth tightening in the past nine months. The central bank typically publishes two scheduled monetary policy statements a year, in April and October. 

Maybank, however, expects as its base case MAS will hold policy in October after front-loading the tightening in July.

"So unless inflation continues to surprise on the upside, like if inflation data in the fourth quarter continues to be close to 5 per cent, they may have to tighten another round," said Lee Ju Ye, an economist at Maybank.

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