April 5, 2012 / 8:44 AM / 5 years ago

Swiss March price data calms deflation fears

* CPI up 0.6 pct m/m vs forecast for 0.4 pct

* Rise due to end of seasonal sales for shoes, clothes

* SNB capped franc to limit deflation risks

ZURICH, April 5 (Reuters) - Swiss inflation rose for a second month in a row in March to a higher than expected monthly rate of 0.6 percent from 0.3 percent in February, easing one of the tensions that has driven the central bank to act to cap the franc currency.

The Federal Statistics Office said the rise was largely due to higher prices for new ranges of clothes and shoes after winter sales, as well as for crude oil products and new cars.

Analysts in a Reuters poll had expected a rise of 0.4 percent in month-on-month inflation. Prices were down 1 percent year-on-year from minus 0.9 percent in February, also slightly higher than average analyst forecasts.

Core inflation - which strips out more volatile components like food and beverages, seasonal products, energy and fuel - rose 0.4 percent in March compared to the previous month.

"One major driver is that the statistical office has brought forward the seasonal repricing of shoes and clothing. The second driver is the ongoing increase in heating oil and gasoline," said Marc Bruetsch, chief economist at Swiss Life Asset Management.

"We think this is more or less the trough in the annual negative inflation numbers. In the fourth quarter we will see positive annual figures again."

Amid fears that a surging franc could tip the economy into recession and drive an economically debilitating cycle of falling prices, the Swiss National Bank capped the currency last September at 1.20 per euro, helping stabilise the economy.

"The trend of a rising price level is likely to continue, especially as the Swiss economy is likely to survive the dent in growth without a recession," said Bernd Hartmann of VP Bank.

The SNB has said it is ready to take further steps if deflation risks make it necessary but prospects of more action on the franc have receded in recent weeks as data suggested the economy is unlikely to slip into recession and downwards pressure on consumer and producer prices is easing.

"The data was stronger than expected as it only dipped a tad deeper into the red due to substantial rises in food, clothes and, unsurprisingly, transport prices while core inflation even held steady," said Nikola Stephan of Informa Global Markets.

"The latest inflation print if anything should calm deflation fears but is nothing for the SNB to get too excited about."

Last month, the SNB trimmed its inflation forecast across its three-year horizon due to a stronger than expected dampening effect on prices of the 2011 franc surge. It predicts prices will fall 0.6 percent this year.

SNB Board Member Jean-Pierre Danthine said recently that the liquidity injections used by major central banks to ease market strains would not necessarily reignite global inflation. (Reporting by Emma Thomasson and Martin de Sa'Pinto; editing by Patrick Graham)

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