Japan consumer inflation at 2.1% as energy costs soar

Consumer prices in Japan rose by more than 2 percent in May from a year earlier. Higher energy costs were a big factor behind the increase.

The internal affairs ministry says the consumer price index, excluding fresh food, gained 2.1 percent.

The figure stayed above 2 percent for a second consecutive month, and has been on an uptrend for nine months.

The soaring price of crude oil continued to pressure the index. Combined energy costs surged 17.1 percent.

Electricity bills jumped 18.6 percent and gasoline was up 13.1 percent.

Overall food prices rose 2.7 percent.

Cooking oil, which mainly uses imported raw materials, surged 36.2 percent.

Ministry officials say a trend toward higher prices for everyday items like food continues. They say they will closely monitor the situation as some food producers are planning to raise prices.

The Bank of Japan has set an inflation target of 2 percent in a bid to pull the country out of deflation.

But BOJ officials say that current price rises are not seen as beneficial to the economy, as they are not accompanied by increases in wages and consumer demand.