March 7, 2014 / 12:47 PM / 4 years ago

UPDATE 1-Chile inflation rises sharply, ahead of forecast

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SANTIAGO, March 7 (Reuters) - Consumer prices in Chile rose much quicker than the market had expected in February, as the effects of a weaker peso began to feed through to the real economy.

Monthly inflation rose 0.5 percent in February, well above a Reuters forecast for a 0.2 percent rise, the national statistics institute said on Friday.

A recent depreciation of the peso has spurred an uptick in the cost of imported goods, including cars, fuel, and food, the government said. It also pointed to higher prices for liquefied natural gas after the cold U.S. winter.

The peso weakened as much as 6 percent in the early part of 2014, following on from a 9 percent fall in 2013.

Inflation in the 12 months to February was 3.2 percent, within the central bank’s 2 percent to 4 percent target range but above the halfway point.

It is the first time inflation has broke through the 3 percent mark since May 2012.

The central bank has repeatedly said in its monetary policy meetings it would consider stimulus to ensure inflation stood at 3 percent on the policy horizon.

A slew of poor data recently has led most in the market to expect the bank to continue with its current easing cycle when it meets next week, although the inflation figure may now give the bank board pause for thought.

“The accumulated inflation is pretty chunky, which will make it a little more difficult for the central bank in its March policy meeting to put forward such an aggressive bias as it has in recent meetings,” said Antonio Moncado, an economist at BCI Inversiones.

That may delay future rate reductions, he added.

The key benchmark interest rate currently stands at 4.25 percent, having been cut by 75 basis points since October to spur a decelerating economy.

Core inflation was 0.4 percent in the month. (Reporting by Rosalba O‘Brien and Felipe Iturrieta; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Sophie Hares)

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