Figures from the internal affairs ministry released Friday show that inflation in Tokyo cooled below 2% for the first time in more than a year and a half, a steeper-than-forecast slowdown that may generate caution at the Bank of Japan over the timing of a widely expected rate hike in the coming months.

Tokyo consumer prices excluding fresh food rose 1.6% in January, compared with 2.1% growth in December. The figure was the weakest since March 2022 as falls in energy costs deepened and gains in the prices of accommodation and processed food cooled.

The result, the third consecutive month of easing, compared with a consensus estimate of 1.9% and also showed a slowing of key service prices.