Prices of food declined by 1.1 percent from a year earlier in December, the first drop since November 2017, compared to a 0.5 percent rise a month earlier. Among food, cost fell for: vegetables & seaweeds (-12.7 percent vs -2.0 percent), of which fresh vegetables (-19.7 percent vs -4.5 percent); fruits (-0.3 percent vs 3.6 percent), of which fresh fruits (-0.7 percent vs 3.6 percent); and alcoholic beverages (-1.5 percent vs -1.1 percent). In addition, inflation slowed for: cooked food (0.1 percent vs 0.6 percent); cereals (1.0 percent vs 1.1 percent); dairy products & eggs (2.6 percent vs 2.8 percent); and meals outside the home (1.0 percent vs 1.1 percent). Meantime, prices of meat increased 0.1 percent, the same as in November; while those of fish & seafood rose 1.8 percent, faster than a 1.5 percent advance a month earlier, of which fresh fish & seafood (0.6 percent vs -0.2 percent).
Also, housing prices continued to decline (-0.1 percent, the same as in November) and cost of transportation & communication decreased 0.1 percent, the first fall since August 2017, compared to a 1.2 percent rise in November. At the same time, cost went up at a softer rate for culture & recreation (0.9 percent vs 1.0 percent), and miscellaneous goods & services (0.8 percent vs 0.9 percent); while inflation was unchanged for clothes & footwear (at 0.1 percent); education (at 0.5 percent); and fuel, light & water charges (at 5 percent), of which electricity (6.4 percent vs 5.6 percent), gas (4.8 percent vs 4 percent) and other fuel & light (12.2 percent vs 21.9 percent). Meanwhile, cost rose faster for medical care (1.3 percent vs 1.2 percent); and rebounded for furniture & household utensils (0.1 percent vs -0.7 percent).
The country's annual core consumer inflation, which excludes fresh food, slowed to a seven-month low of 0.7 percent in December 2018 from 0.9 percent in the previous month
, missing market expectations of 0.8 percent. The figure came in well below the Bank of Japan's 2 percent target ahead of next week's policy meeting, where the bank is seen cutting its price forecasts and warning of heightening global uncertainties.
On a monthly basis, consumer prices declined 0.2 percent in December,
the same pace as in November.