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Economists boost Singapore growth outlook, see lower prices - MAS survey

REUTERS - Singapore's economy is expected to grow 2.9 percent in 2013, a central bank survey of economists showed, near the middle of the government's forecast range of 2.5 to 3.5 percent, boosted by financial services and the retail sector.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore's (MAS) latest quarterly Survey of Professional Forecasters released on Wednesday also found that economists now expect the city-state's consumer price index (CPI) to rise by 2.5 percent this year, below the median estimate of a 2.8 percent gain in the previous poll.

Strong economic growth and lower prices could indicate that the central bank has the room to keep monetary policy unchanged in its next policy review in October.

Last month, the government raised its growth outlook for the year from 1-3 percent on expectations of a gradual pick-up in global growth in coming months.

Economists, however, expect non-oil domestic exports to decline by 0.5 percent in 2013, versus a previous forecast of growth of 2.5 percent.

The MAS conducts its survey every quarter after the release of detailed economic data for the preceding three months. The median forecasts in the latest report were based on the estimates of 19 economists.

The MAS's core inflation measure, which excludes housing and private car prices that are more influenced by government policy, will likely come in at 1.9 percent this year, up from the previous median estimate of 1.8 percent, the survey showed.

However, inflation is expected to pick up again in 2014 to 2.9 percent, according to the median estimate of economists.

And reflecting the dollar's rise against most Asian currencies in recent months, economists now expect the Singapore dollar to end the year at 1.27 to the U.S. currency, from 1.25 in the previous survey.

The Singapore dollar has lost around 4.4 percent against the dollar so far this year, and is currently trading around 1.277.

(Reporting by Saeed Azhar and Anshuman Daga; Editing by Kim Coghill)