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Kyodo News The key gauge of Tokyo consumer prices fell 0.7 percent in February from a year earlier, declining for a record 41st straight month, the government said Friday, underscoring persistent deflation and no signs of an improvement in the economy.

The consumer price index for Tokyo’s 23 wards, excluding prices of perishable foods, stood at 97 against the base of 100 for 2000, the Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications Ministry said in a preliminary report.

Compared with the previous month, the index was down 0.2 percent.

Consumer prices in Tokyo are a leading indicator of prices nationwide.

Including perishables, the index dropped 0.2 percent from a year earlier to 97.2. It fell 0.3 percent the preceding month.

Takahide Kiuchi, senior economist at the Nomura Research Institute, said price falls are likely to continue for some time, given weak demand at home and abroad, an absence of effective economic policy and rises in crude oil prices amid growing tensions surrounding Iraq.

“It would be hard to send the CPI to higher levels without a drastic policy change from the administration of (Junichiro) Koizumi and the Bank of Japan with new leadership (from March 20),” he said.

According to the preliminary figures, prices for education and entertainment durable goods, including computers, fell 12.1 percent from a year earlier, with those of notebook personal computers down 24.3 percent and desktop PCs down 23.4 percent.

Prices of household durable goods dropped 9.3 percent, with those of refrigerators down 23.7 percent and air conditioners down 12.7 percent.

Housing rent was down 1.1 percent from a year earlier and electricity fell 5.9 percent.

The ministry reported the nationwide CPI for January at 97.6, excluding perishables, down 0.8 percent from a year earlier for the 40th consecutive month of decline.

It was down 0.6 percent from December.

Including perishables, the index stood at 98, down 0.4 percent from a year earlier and down 0.3 percent from the month before.

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