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The rate of inflation soared to 7.4% in annual terms in February to May, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.

The increase follows a moderate rate of gain, 2.7%, from the beginning of 2001.

The bureau figures show that without housing, the consumer price index would have increased by 4.8% from February to May. If fruit and vegetable prices are also discounted, that pace falls to 4.5%.

All the figures represent trend data.

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The rate at which the CPI is rising far exceeds the government's inflation target for the year, of 2% to 3%. The government also aims to keep price rises between 1% to 3% this year.

Economists estimate that prices will stop rising soon. The average inflation forecast for the year ranges from 3% to 4%.

On Monday the Bank of Israel will be announcing monetary policy for July. Pundits believe the governor will raise interest rates by 1% to 1.5%. Going by derivatives trade on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, market players believe the rate rise will be 1.5%.