(ATTN: RECASTS lead; UPDATES with more details from para 8; ADDS photo)
By Kim Soo-yeon
SEOUL, July 2 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's consumer prices grew more than 2 percent for the third straight month in June on higher prices of farm and oil products, data showed Friday, underscoring expectations that a rate hike within this year may become more plausible amid an economic recovery.
The consumer price index rose 2.4 percent on-year in June, slowing from a 2.6 percent on-year gain the previous month, the fastest rise in more than nine years, according to the data compiled by Statistics Korea.
The inflation gain is due largely to last year's low base and the tight supply of farm and livestock products, according to the statistics agency.
Compared with a month earlier, the index fell 0.1 percent last month, compared with a 0.1 percent on-month rise in May.
Core inflation, which excludes volatile food and oil prices, rose 1.2 percent on-year in June.
The country's inflationary pressure remained subdued last year amid the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But inflationary pressure is growing as the economic recovery accelerates following the pandemic-caused slumps.
The government said the growth of consumer prices is expected to temporarily surpass the Bank of Korea's inflation target of 2 percent, but annual inflation will remain below 2 percent.
Prices of agricultural and petroleum products continued to extend their double-digit growth in June, but the growth rate has slowed since May.
Last month, prices of agricultural, livestock and fisheries products rose 10.4 percent on-year, compared with a 12.1 percent increase in May.
Prices of petroleum products climbed 19.9 percent on-year last month, as oil prices picked up amid a global economic recovery.
Prices of personal services rose 2.5 percent in June from a year ago as people increased spending amid the economic recovery. Prices for dining out increased 2.3 percent on-year.
Home prices rose 1.4 percent last month, marking the 14th straight month of rises. Housing prices extended their gains despite the government's efforts to curb them.
The statistics agency said the growth of consumer prices is expected to stabilize in the second half, led by a letup in price gains in farm and petroleum products.
"Amid the economic recovery and the vaccine rollout, prices of personal services are expected to continue their upward trend as consumer sentiment is fast improving," Eo Woon-sun, a senior Statistics Korea official, told reporters.
"But prices of agricultural products will likely slow, and oil prices are not forecast to extend their gains as supply will recover," he added.
In May, the BOK revised up its 2021 inflation outlook to 1.8 percent from its earlier estimate of 1.3 percent. The finance ministry also forecast consumer prices to grow 1.8 percent this year.
BOK Gov. Lee Ju-yeol said last week his bank is ready to raise the key interest rate "within this year," stressing the need to orderly normalize its monetary policy amid the accelerating economic recovery.
In May, the BOK froze its policy rate at a record low of 0.5 percent. The central bank slashed the base rate by a combined 0.75 percentage point between March and May 2020 to bolster the pandemic-hit economy.
Asia's fourth-largest economy is on a recovery track, led by robust exports of chips and autos, and reviving domestic demand.
Earlier this week, the government raised its 2021 growth outlook for the Korean economy to 4.2 percent from its previous estimate of 3.2 percent. The BOK expected economic growth of 4 percent.
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