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MANILA: Philippine annual inflation in August likely dropped below the bottom range of the central bank's target range for the year, due to a high base effect and a drop in rice and utility prices, a Reuters poll showed.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) had set a 2%-4% target range for the year.

The median forecast in a Reuters poll of 11 economists was for the Consumer Price Index (CPI) to have risen 1.8% in August from a year earlier, the weakest since October 2016, and easing from previous month's gain of 2.4%.

The estimate, if it proves to be correct, could seal the deal for a third interest rate cut this year.

Slowing inflation allowed the central bank to cut rates twice by a total of 50 basis points in May and August to give the Philippine economy a lift and buffer it from the fallout from the U.S.-China trade war.

BSP Governor Benjamin Diokno has flagged a further quarter-point interest rate reduction before the end of 2019 to shore up economic growth, which slipped to its weakest in 17 quarters in April-June.

The central bank next meets on Sept. 26 to review policy.

BSP raised the rates by a total of 175 basis points last year to rein in inflation, which peaked at a near-decade high of 6.7% in September and October.

Inflation is seen to average 2.6% this year and 2.9% next year, the central bank has said, well within its target of 2%-4% for both years.

Copyright Reuters, 2019