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Faster Southeast Asian inflation puts rate hike outlook in focus

Central banks feel pressure to contain surging prices

A supermarket in Singapore. Rising food and energy prices are expected to weigh heavily on Southeast Asian households.   © Reuters

SINGAPORE -- Inflation is catching up to Southeast Asia, fueling speculation that rapidly increasing prices of food, energy and services could force the region's central banks to raise interest rates sooner than expected.

Singapore's consumer price index rose by 4.3% on the year in February, its fastest pace in nine years, driven by a surge in private-sector transport costs. A 16.7% jump in electricity and gas prices contributed as well.

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