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  • The Economist

Asian and European cities compete for the title of most expensive city

Currency weakness causes New York and London to drop down the rankings

SINGAPORE remains the most expensive city in the world for the fifth year running, according to the latest findings of the Worldwide Cost of Living Survey from The Economist Intelligence Unit. The survey, which compares the price of over 150 items in 133 cities around the world, found that Singapore was 16% more expensive than the benchmark city of New York. Three other cities from the Asia-Pacific region (Hong Kong, Seoul and Sydney) appear in the top ten, along with five cities from Europe. Paris, the only euro-area city among them, has risen from seventh position last year to second. It remains extremely expensive to live there: only alcohol, transport and tobacco offer value for money compared with other European cities. Tel Aviv, which was ranked 34th just five years ago, completes the top ten. It is the second-most-expensive city in the survey in which to buy alcohol, and the cost of buying, insuring and maintaining a car pushes transport costs 79% above those in New York.

With the dollar weakening against other currencies, no city in the United States ranks among the ten most expensive cities, although New York and Los Angeles remain highly ranked in 13th and 14th place respectively, compared with ninth and 11th last year. The latest survey reflects a fall in ranking for all 16 of the American cities surveyed except Boston. Domestic help and utilities, however, remain expensive, with American cities accounting for nine and five of the top ten entries, respectively, for these categories.

Currency fluctuations drive other changes in the ranking. After Uzbekistan allowed the som to float freely last September, it lost nearly half of its value. Sure enough, Tashkent, its capital, fell by 35 places in this year’s table, to 112th. Cairo, which dropped by 22 spots and narrowly avoided joining the bottom ten, faced a similar depreciation after the Egyptian central bank allowed the country’s pound to float in November 2016.

In contrast, volatility in the Mexican peso, reflecting in part the renegotiations of the North American Free-Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as well as increasing inflation in the country, drove Mexico City 23 places up the ranks. Santiago, Chile has moved up as well, thanks to increases in the price of copper, the country’s primary export, and the value of the Chilean peso. A stronger Russian rouble—partly driven by recovering oil prices—also pushed Moscow and St Petersburg up the ranking by 12 and 14 places respectively. But continued economic uncertainty around Brexit has weighed on the strength of the British pound, sending the British cities of London and Manchester sharply down the rankings. Manchester fell to 56th, while London's cost-of-living rank of 30th is its lowest in two decades.

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