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Moscow remains costliest city

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London, England (Reuters) -- Moscow remains the world's most expensive city for expatriates with London close behind after rising three places due to the weakness of the dollar, an annual cost of living survey published on Monday said.

Currency movements were the main factor driving multiple changes of position in the worldwide survey by leading human resources consultancy Mercer, which ranks 143 cities against each other with New York as the benchmark.

"There have been some significant changes in the rankings since last year," said Mercer consultant Rebecca Powers. "These are primarily due to exchange rate fluctuations -- in particular the weakening of the U.S. dollar and strengthening of the euro."

Seoul was the third-placed city, followed by Tokyo and Hong Kong, all down one from 2006. Copenhagen was up two in sixth place, Geneva unchanged in seventh, Osaka down two in eighth and Zurich and Oslo unchanged in ninth and 10 places respectively.

The survey measures the comparative costs of more than 200 items including rent, transport, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment.

For example, the most expensive fast-food hamburger in a leading city is to be found in Copenhagen while the cheapest is in Beijing. Moscow serves the most expensive cup of coffee, with the cheapest being found in Buenos Aires.

Monthly rental of a luxury two-bedroom unfurnished apartment is most expensive in Tokyo and cheapest in Johannesburg, where it costs less than a quarter of the Tokyo price.

The annual survey normally covers 144 cities, but this year Harare has been dropped because hyperinflation there has made international cost comparisons meaningless, Mercer said.

Asuncion was the cheapest city for expatriates for the fifth consecutive year, just behind Karachi and Quito.

New York, down five in 15th place, was the most expensive city in North America, followed by Los Angeles, down 13 in 42nd place. Miami fell 12 places to 51st, while San Francisco was down 20 in 54th place.

"The change reflects a reversal of the situation experienced this time last year, when the majority of U.S. cities climbed the ranking due to the strength of the dollar," said Powers.

In Asia, Singapore climbed three places to 14th while Mumbai rose 16 places to 52nd -- both moves mainly due to surging property prices, the survey said.

Tel Aviv, up seven to 17th place, is the most expensive city in the Middle East, while Dubai, down nine in 34th place, and Abu Dhabi, down 15 at 45, have both become cheaper because the UAE dirham is pegged to the dollar, the survey said.

Sao Paolo, down 28 places to 62nd, and Rio de Janeiro, down 24 in 64th place, remain the most expensive cities in Latin America.

Wellington, down six in 111th place, is the least costly city in Australasia while Sydney, down two in 21st place, remains the most expensive.

"As companies continue to send employees on expatriate assignments, they must closely monitor changes in cost of living to ensure their expatriate compensation packages are fair and competitive," said Powers.


story.moscow.gi.jpg

St Basil's Cathedral in Moscow.

FACT BOX

MOST EXPENSIVE CITIES
1. Moscow
2. London
3. Seoul
4. Tokyo
5. Hong Kong
6. Copenhagen
7. Geneva
8. Osaka
9. Zurich
10. Oslo
Source: Mercer Cost of Living Survey, June 2007

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