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Wholesale prices climbed 2.8 percent in fiscal 2006 from the previous year, posting the sharpest rise in 26 years, due to a surge in the price of nonferrous metals and crude oil, the Bank of Japan said Thursday.

The figures, gauged by the BOJ’s corporate goods price index, surpassed the 2.7 percent gain logged in fiscal 1989 at the height of the asset-inflated economic bubble to mark the highest rise since fiscal 1980, when wholesale prices surged 12.5 percent in the aftermath of the second oil crisis, the central bank said.

The CGPI came to 101.2 in the fiscal year to March 31 against the base of 100 for 2000 for the third straight yearly expansion, the BOJ said in a preliminary report.

The nation’s wholesale prices kept falling from fiscal 1992 to fiscal 2003 on a yean-on-year basis, except for fiscal 1997 when, the government raised the consumption tax.

Prices of nonferrous metals, including copper, jumped 41.6 percent from the previous year for the seventh consecutive yearly rise and crude oil prices gained 10.6 percent, both mirroring the uptrend in international market prices, the official said.

Other items contributing to lifting wholesale prices include chemical products and lumber and wood products, he said.

With strong demand for steel in Asia, particularly driven by the 2008 Beijing Olympics, scrap metal prices shot up 37.6 percent in fiscal 2006 from the previous year, the official said.

“A series of recent cases of reported metal thefts in Japan reflects the price hikes for scrap metal,” he said.

There have been a number of thefts this year of metal from public places, including such unusual items as manhole covers and guardrails.

At the other end, prices for electric machinery and equipment slipped 2.3 percent from the previous year and precision-instrument prices dipped 0.5 percent.

“Prices of these products rarely rise due to technological innovations tending to push down prices,” the official said.

Import prices grew 12.5 percent in fiscal 2006 from the prior year in yen terms and 9.3 percent in terms of contract currencies.

In March alone, the nation’s wholesale prices increased 2.0 percent from the previous year, up for the 37th straight month.

The CGPI stood at 101.4 against the base of 100 for 2000, the central bank said.

On a month-to-month basis, the wholesale prices in March expanded 0.3 percent.

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