Hard-pegged Hong Kong inflation at 5.3-pct as Federal Reserve prints

HONG KONG, April 22, 2008 (AFP) – Hong Kong’s underlying inflation rate increased to 5.3 percent year-on-year in March, as food costs continued to rocket in the face of global pressure, official figures showed Tuesday. The underlying rate increased from a 5.1 percent figure in February, according to figures released by the Census and Statistics Department.

The overall figures dropped sharply to 4.2 percent, from February’s increase of 6.3 percent, but the drop was due to a waiver of public housing rentals in February 2007, which had skewed the figures, the statement said.

Food remained the most serious inflation pressure, with food excluding meals bought away from home increasing 17.2 percent in price year-on-year. Pork was up 59.1 percent, beef was up 50.8 percent and eggs were up 19.4 percent.

The increase compared to February was a result of a rise in the cost of private rent, women’s clothing and restaurant trips.

For the 12 months ended March 2008, the inflation figures was on average 2.7 percent higher than in the preceding 12-month period.

A government spokesman said: “The pick-up in inflationary pressure in recent months was largely due to the upsurge in food prices, which was driven by