Japan’s latest inflation report gives the Bank of Japan another reason to wait beyond next week’s meeting before ending its negative rate policy, while also adding to the case for a hike in coming months.

Growth in consumer prices excluding fresh food slowed to 2.3% in December from a year earlier, matching consensus, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications reported Friday. Steeper drops in electricity and gas prices and a slower pace of gains for processed food weighed on the index.

For a second month, prices for services rose 2.3%, the fastest pace in three decades, excluding periods distorted by sales tax hikes.