Mexico central bank seen 'throwing out' rate hike threat

Fri Jan 18, 2013 1:00am EST

* Banco de Mexico rates seen unchanged at 4.5 pct

* Central bank likely to say inflation risks have eased

* Decision due Friday 0900 local (1500 GMT

MEXICO CITY, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Mexico's central bank is likely to hold borrowing costs steady on Friday after inflation cooled in December back into policymakers' comfort zone, giving them room to pull back from a threat to hike interest rates.

The Banco de Mexico will leave its benchmark interest rate steady on Friday at 4.50 percent, according to all 20 analysts polled last week by Reuters.

Easing inflation pressures and solid, if slowing, growth bode well for further stability in Mexican borrowing costs. Mexico's main rate has held steady since mid-2009.

After inflation fell in December for the third month in a row and dropped below the central bank's 4-percent limit, policymakers could remove a pledge to raise interest rates if inflation begins to rise again.

"We think that the bank will throw 'out the window' the rate hike threat it presented in October and November, choosing instead to adopt a far more neutral statement," Credit Suisse economist Alonso Cervera wrote in a note.

Data last week showed the annual pace of Mexican consumer price increases dipped to 3.57 percent in December. The rate has fallen back after hitting a 2-1/2 year high in September, driven by a spike in food costs that has now faded.

Yields on Mexican interest rate swaps have fallen in recent weeks and are not forecasting a hike over the next two years.

The recent exit of deputy governor Jose Julian Sidaoui, who was considered one of the board members most concerned about inflation, could also contribute to a statement that expresses less worry about consumer price increases.

Friday's decision will be written by four members as Congress still needs to approve economist Javier Guzman, who was nominated last month by President Enrique Pena Nieto in his first month in office.

Inflation expectations have remained largely stable. A poll from Banamex last week showed the median of economists expect the annual rate will end 2013 at 3.79 percent, up 4 basis points from a poll in December.

A stronger Mexican currency could help curb the price of imports and help further tame inflation. The peso hit a 10-month high on Thursday.

Solid U.S. demand has helped shield Mexico from more sluggish growth around the world. Still, Latin America's second-biggest economy is seen slowing from an expected 3.9 percent in 2012 to 3.5 percent this year, according to the government.

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