By Yantoultra Ngui

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia--Inflation in Malaysia likely edged higher in February toward its highest level in almost a year, according to a survey of economists Tuesday.

The consumer-price index, the country's main inflation gauge, is expected to have risen 4.0% in February from a year earlier, according to the median forecast from a Wall Street Journal poll of seven economists. Inflation in January was 3.2% compared with the same period a year ago.

Inflation in the Southeast Asian nation hit a seven-year high of 4.2% in February last year.

"The acceleration (in February) is mainly due to higher energy prices compared to the same period last year as well as pass through from higher producer costs and a weaker exchange rate," said Julia Goh, an analyst at Singapore's United Overseas Bank.

Mohd Afzanizam Abdul Rashid, chief economist at Bank Islam Malaysia Bhd, concurred, adding that at this rate, Malaysia could already be experiencing negative real rates of return.

"I think it's best for the consumers and households to start looking opportunities for investment in order to preserve their income and wealth," he said.

There have been a series of encouraging signs for local economic growth.

Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak said in February that the country's economy is expected to expand at a faster pace this year, after the country posted strong gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the fourth quarter. Malaysia's GDP grew at a better-than-expected 4.5% in the three months ended December, lifting 2016's growth to 4.2%.

Malaysia government announced in October it expected inflation to remain between 2% and 3% this year.

Theofficial February inflation data is due Friday at 0400 GMT.

Write to Yantoultra Ngui at yantoultra.ngui@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

March 21, 2017 00:21 ET (04:21 GMT)

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