Consumer prices rose 4.4 per cent in February from a year ago, the Census and Statistics Department announced on Thursday. It is a bigger increase than in January, when prices rose 3 per cent over the same month a year earlier. The larger increase was mainly attributable to the difference in the timing of the Lunar New Year, which occurred in February this year but in January last year. The traditional festival raised consumer demand, resulting in a surge in the charges for package tours, the costs for meals bought away from home, and the prices of poultry and fresh sea products in February 2013. Taking January and February together to remove such distortions, the underlying Composite Consumer Price Index rose by 3.8 per cent over a year earlier, which was actually the same as those in the last few months of 2012, a government spokesman said. Among areas that saw the biggest price increases were miscellaneous services, 6.1 per cent; food, excluding meals bought away from home, 5.4 per cent; and housing, 5.3 per cent. Inflationary pressures should remain largely contained in the near term, given the moderated increase in import prices and the below-trend growth of the local economy, the spokesman added.