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MNI (London)
--Japan Core CPI Up 0.7% y/y In February Vs. +0.8% in January
     TOKYO (MNI) - The Bank of Japan's outlook on prices remains cautious as the
latest data confirmed the country remains locked in a low inflation environment.
     Japan's nationwide core consumer price index rose 0.7% on year in February,
decelerating from 0.8% in January. Core CPI rise was expected to come in at
+0.8% on year (vs. +0.8% in Jan), in line with the Tokyo core CPI -- a leading
indicator for the nationwide number -- which had risen at the same pace as seen
in January.
     February's positive contribution from energy prices was 0.34 percentage
point, slowing from 0.37 percentage point in January and 0.45 percentage point
in December and BOJ officials see it slowing further in the months ahead.
     The February data continued to indicate that inflation remains stubbornly
slow in responding to a sustainable economic expansion and tight labor market
conditions, with firms still cautious over raising their retail prices, despite
higher energy and labor costs.
     Despite the slowing core CPI rise, BOJ officials maintain the view that
Japan's inflation rate is expected to gradually rise as food and drink companies
at least have announced a raise in their retail prices from April, the beginning
of the new fiscal year. Those officials will now focus on the annual corporate
price revisions in April.
     Goods prices excluding volatile fresh food prices rose 1.1% on year in
February, with the pace of increase unchanged from January's 1.1% gain. Overall
goods prices were unchanged at -0.1%.
     Prices for processed food (canned food, bread, snacks, beverages, etc.),
which accounts for 15% of the total CPI that BOJ officials are focused, rose
0.5% on year, unchanged from a 0.5% gain in the previous month.
     Prices for eating out rose 1.0% on year in February, after rising 1.1% in
January, indicating that upward pressure on the service prices from higher labor
and material costs continues, but hasn't picked up.
     BOJ economists will continue to watch how weaker prices lower the expected
inflation rate, which have been more or less unchanged in recent months.
--MNI Tokyo Bureau; tel: +81 90-2175-0040; email: hiroshi.inoue@marketnews.com
--MNI London Bureau; tel: +44 203-586-2225; email: les.commons@marketnews.com
[TOPICS: MAJDS$,MMJBJ$,M$A$$$,M$J$$$]
MNI London Bureau | +44 203-865-3812 | les.commons@marketnews.com