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(LEAD) S. Korea's consumer prices gain 1 pct in March

All Headlines 08:43 April 01, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS more details from 6th para, photo)

SEJONG, April 1 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's consumer prices grew by more than 1 percent for the second month in a row in March, government data showed Friday.

The country's consumer price index rose 1 percent last month from a year earlier, slightly slowing from February's 1.3 percent on-year gain, according to the report by Statistics Korea.

It is the first time in three months that the index stayed over the 1 percent level for two straight months.

The consumer prices gain hit 1 percent in November and 1.3 percent in December, after having remained below the 1 percent level for 11 straight months.

Core inflation, which excludes volatile oil and food prices, increased 1.9 percent compared with last year, down 0.1 percentage point from a year ago.

Statistics Korea said a price hike in agricultural products contributed to the overall rise in consumer prices last month, which was due to a supply shortage of main farm products like Chinese cabbage, onions and garlic.

Prices of agricultural products jumped 5.4 percent on-year in March and those of meat gained 7.4 percent on-year.

In particular, prices of fresh food, including vegetables and fruits, jumped 9.7 percent last month from a year earlier.

"Nationwide output of onions and garlic has remained low for months due to the imbalance of supply and demand," said Woo Young-jae, director of the price statistics division at the statistical bureau.

Prices of service bills, including rent and public transportation fees, rose 2.3 percent on-year last month to lend support to the overall pickup, he added.

Prices of petroleum products, however, sank 12.4 percent on-year, offsetting the sharp rise in agricultural goods and service bills, amid a global low oil price trend.

brk@yna.co.kr
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