UPDATE 1-Economists raise 2012 Brazil inflation, growth forecast

Mon Feb 6, 2012 6:06am EST

* Analysts raise 2012 inflation forecast to 5.29 pct

* 2012 growth forecast raised to 3.3 pct from 3.27 pct

* Benchmark interest rate outlook remains unchanged

By Asher Levine

SAO PAULO, Feb 6 (Reuters) - Economists raised forecasts for Brazil's year-end inflation rate for the first time after nine straight weeks of cuts and upped growth predictions, a weekly central bank survey showed, suggesting a growing view that the country's economy may be picking up steam after stalling in the third quarter of 2011.

The forecast for inflation this year rose to 5.29 percent in the week ended on Feb. 3 from 5.28 percent the prior week, according to Monday's Focus survey.

Economists raised their estimates for economic growth this year after keeping them stable last week. Most analysts expect Brazil's economy to struggle in the first half before fiscal and monetary stimulus take effect later in the year.

The median growth estimate for 2012 climbed to 3.3 percent from 3.27 percent previously, while expectations for Brazil's year-end benchmark interest rate stood at 9.50 percent for an eighth straight week.

The survey's predictions represent the median forecast of analysts polled by the central bank at about 100 financial institutions.

Inflation, which last year ended at the 6.5 percent ceiling of the central bank's official target range, is likely to accelerate moderately in February, the Focus poll showed.

Consumer prices are expected to rise 0.55 percent in February, according to the survey's top five forecasting firms, after a 0.52 percent increase in January.

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