Taiwan Inflation Accelerates to Six-Month High on Lunar New Year

Taiwan’s inflation quickened to the fastest in six months in February as the Lunar New Year celebrations boosted prices of food and transport.

Consumer prices rose 2.97 percent from a year earlier, after climbing a revised 1.13 percent in January, the statistics bureau said in Taipei today. The median of 17 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey was 2.8 percent.

The Chinese New Year holiday, which typically drives up costs of food, was observed in February this year and in January last year. Higher minimum wages and a planned electricity tariff increase may also increase price pressure, with Taiwan raising its inflation forecast for 2013 last month.

Today’s figure was “boosted by festive demand and base effects,” Ma Tieying, a Singapore-based economist at DBS Holdings Ltd., said before the report. Excluding the effects of Chinese New Year, “inflation remains tame,” she said, adding that it should slow to 1 percent in the second quarter of 2013.

The Taiwan dollar weakened 0.4 percent to NT$29.770 against its U.S. counterpart in Taipei at yesterday’s close. The currency has weakened more than 2 percent this year.

The statistics bureau in February raised its inflation forecast for the year to 1.37 percent from 1.31 percent, with the economy seen expanding 3.59 percent, faster than it initially estimated.

Core consumer prices, a category excluding vegetables, fruits, fish and energy, advanced 2.21 percent in February from a year earlier, today’s report showed. Wholesale prices, which track the cost of goods sold to retailers and producers, fell 2.2 percent.

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