Inflation to bounce back to over 3 pct in February: finance ministry

Inflation could rise over 3 percent in South Korea in February on high prices of global oil and fresh food items, the finance ministry said Thursday, vowing all-out efforts to curb inflation. In January, consumer prices, a key gauge of inflation, rose 2.8 percent on-year, marking the first fall below the 3 percent level in six months. The country has experienced a gradual easing of inflationary pressure, but uncertainties have grown, centering on prices of farm produce and petroleum products, First Vice Finance Minister Kim Byoung-hwan said during a government-wide meeting on inflation. "Prices of fruit are still high, and global oil prices have stayed above the US$80 level amid the instability in the Middle East. So there is the possibility of inflation in February gathering pace from the January level and hovering over 3 percent," Kim added. Dubai crude, South Korea's benchmark, rose to $80.8 per barrel during the Feb. 1-27 period from the previous month's $78.9, according to government data. The gover nment vowed to stay "extra vigilant" and intensify efforts to bring inflation under control by expanding the supply of imported fruits and providing discount programs. A pan-government task force will launch a special inspection of gas stations nationwide throughout March to check if they unduly increase gas prices, the ministry said. The government has said that inflationary pressure is forecast to ease at a slower pace than earlier expected before reaching its target rate of 2 percent by around the end of 2024. The finance ministry expected this year's prices to grow 2.6 percent. Source: Yonhap News Agency