Japan’s consumer inflation has accelerated to the quickest pace in four months, an outcome that will keep markets focused on whether the Bank of Japan might follow its first interest rate hike since 2007 with an encore later this year.

Consumer prices excluding fresh food rose 2.8% in February from a year ago, with the pace speeding up from 2% in January, the internal affairs ministry said Friday. The reading matched analysts’ estimates. As was the case with earlier data for the Tokyo area, much of the gains stemmed from base effects after utility subsidies weighed on prices in 2023.

Friday’s data marked the 23rd straight month consumer inflation excluding fresh food stayed at or above the BOJ’s price target. The figures come just days after the central bank called time on its massive stimulus program aimed at stoking inflation, while leaving it unclear when it will move again.