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Consumer Price Indices for March 2013
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     The Census and Statistics Department (C&SD) released today (April 22) the Consumer Price Index (CPI) figures for March 2013. According to the Composite CPI, overall consumer prices rose by 3.6% in March 2013 over the same month a year earlier, slightly smaller than the average rate of increase in January and February 2013 (3.7%). The comparison to the average rate of increase in January and February is to neutralise the effect caused by different timing of the Lunar New Year between two years. Netting out the effects of all Government's one-off relief measures, the year-on-year rate of increase in the Composite CPI (i.e. the underlying inflation rate) in March 2013 was 3.7%, also slightly smaller than the average rate of increase in January and February 2013 (3.8%), mainly due to the decreases in the prices of fresh vegetables.

     The year-on-year rate of increase in the Composite CPI in March 2012 (3.6%) was smaller than the corresponding increase in February 2013 (4.4%). Netting out the effects of all Government's one-off relief measures, the year-on-year rate of increase in the Composite CPI in March 2013 (3.7%) was also smaller than that in February 2013 (4.4%). Nonetheless, it should be noted that the higher inflation figure for February was affected by the difference in timing of the Lunar New Year, which occurred in February this year but in January last year.

     On a seasonally adjusted basis, the average monthly rate of increase in the Composite CPI for the 3-month period from January to March 2013 was 0.4%, and that for the 3-month period from December 2012 to February 2013 was 0.5%. Netting out the effects of all Government's one-off relief measures, the average monthly rate of increase in the Composite CPI for the 3-month period from January to March 2013 was 0.4%, and that for the 3-month period from December 2012 to February 2013 was 0.5%.

     Analysed by sub-index, the year-on-year rates of increase in the CPI(A), CPI(B) and CPI(C) were 4.0%, 3.5% and 3.4% respectively in March 2013, which compared to the average rates of increase of 4.2%, 3.5% and 3.3% respectively in January and February 2013, and 4.7%, 4.2% and 4.2% respectively in February. Netting out the effects of all Government's one-off relief measures, the year-on-year rates of increase in the CPI(A), CPI(B) and CPI(C) were 4.0%, 3.6% and 3.5% respectively in March 2013, which compared to the average rates of increase of 4.3%, 3.6% and 3.4% respectively in January and February 2013, and 4.7%, 4.2% and 4.3% respectively in February.

     On a seasonally adjusted basis, for the 3-month period from January to March 2013, the average monthly rates of increase in the seasonally adjusted CPI(A), CPI(B) and CPI(C) were all 0.4%. The corresponding rates of increase for the 3-month period from December 2012 to February 2013 were 0.5%, 0.4% and 0.4%. Netting out the effects of all Government's one-off relief measures, the corresponding average monthly rates of increase in the seasonally adjusted CPI(A), CPI(B) and CPI(C) for the 3-month period from January to March 2013 were all 0.4%, and the corresponding rates of increase for the 3-month period from December 2012 to February 2013 were 0.5%, 0.4% and 0.4% respectively.

     Amongst the various CPI components, year-on-year increases in prices were recorded in March 2013 for housing (5.2% in the Composite CPI and 6.2% in the CPI(A)); electricity, gas and water (5.1% in the Composite CPI and 5.4% in the CPI(A)); miscellaneous services (4.5% in the Composite CPI and 3.4% in the CPI(A)); meals bought away from home (4.4% in the Composite CPI and 4.6% in the CPI(A)); food (excluding meals bought away from home) (2.6% in the Composite CPI and 2.4% in the CPI(A)); transport (2.3% in the Composite CPI and 1.4% in the CPI(A)); alcoholic drinks and tobacco (2.1% in the Composite CPI and 1.9% in the CPI(A)); miscellaneous goods (1.0% in the Composite CPI and 1.4% in the CPI(A)) and clothing and footwear (0.5% in the Composite CPI and 1.8% in the CPI(A)).

     On the other hand, year-on-year decrease in prices were recorded in March 2013 for durable goods (-4.3% in both the Composite CPI and CPI(A)).

     In the first quarter of 2013, the Composite CPI rose by 3.7% over a year earlier, while the CPI(A), CPI(B) and CPI(C) rose by 4.2%, 3.5% and 3.3% respectively. The corresponding increases after netting out the effects of all Government's one-off relief measures were 3.8%, 4.2%, 3.6% and 3.5% respectively.

     For the 12 months ended March 2013, the Composite CPI was on average 3.7% higher than in the preceding 12-month period. The respective increases in the CPI(A), CPI(B) and CPI(C) were 3.5%, 3.9% and 3.6%. The corresponding increases after netting out the effects of all Government's one-off relief measures were 4.1%, 4.4%, 4.2% and 3.8% respectively.

Commentary

     A Government spokesman said that the year-on-year rate of underlying consumer price inflation eased slightly to 3.7% in March, from the average of 3.8% in January and February combined. The latter figure is used for comparison because it avoids the distortions caused by the timing of the Lunar New Year. In March, prices of basic foodstuffs saw a slower year-on-year increase, while those of many other CPI components remained moderate.

     The spokesman commented further that, looking ahead, inflationary pressures should remain largely contained in the near term, given the moderated increase in import prices and below-trend growth of the local economy. Nevertheless, we need to stay alert to the upside risks to inflation, including the progressive feed-through of the increases in private housing rentals over the past year or so. The Government will continue to monitor the inflation situation closely, particularly its impact on the lower-income people.

Further information

     When there is a difference in timing of the Lunar New Year between two years, it is a general practice is to compare the year-on-year rate of change in March with the average rate of increase in January and February combined so as to remove the price volatility caused by the different timing of the Lunar New Year.

     The CPIs and year-on-year rates of change at section level for March 2013 are shown in Table 1. The time series on the year-on-year rates of change in the CPIs before and after removing the effects of one-off measures are shown in Table 2. For discerning the latest trend in consumer prices, it is also useful to look at the changes in the seasonally adjusted CPIs. The corresponding time series on the average monthly rates of change during the latest 3 months for the seasonally adjusted CPIs are shown in Table 3. The rates of change in the original and the seasonally adjusted Composite CPI and the underlying inflation rate are presented graphically in Chart 1.

     More detailed CPI data (including year-on-year comparison, month-to-month comparison and seasonally adjusted data series) are available in the monthly reports. Users can download the March 2013 issue of the Monthly Report on the Consumer Price Index free of charge at the website of the C&SD (www.censtatd.gov.hk/hkstat/sub/sp270.jsp?productCode=B1060001).

     For enquiries about the CPIs, please contact the Consumer Price Index Section of the C&SD at telephone no. 2805 6403 or email address [email protected]

Ends/Monday, April 22, 2013
Issued at HKT 16:30

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