UPDATE 1-Ecuador monthly inflation accelerates in March

Thu Apr 4, 2013 10:44am EDT

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* CPI rose 3.01 percent in the 12 months through March

* The 12-month inflation rate is lowest in at least 2 years

* Food and soft drinks fueled inflation last month

QUITO, April 4 (Reuters) - Ecuador's consumer prices rose 0.44 percent in March, accelerating their advance from 0.18 percent gain in the previous month, the country's official statistics agency said on Thursday.

In the 12 months through March, consumer prices rose 3.01 percent, the lowest rate in at least two years. Inflation in the 12 months through February was 3.48 percent.

The government of socialist President Rafael Correa expects annual inflation of around 5 percent this year.

Food prices, the sector that usually fuels inflation, increased 0.77 percent in March, after decreasing 0.15 percent the previous month.

The government plans to introduce price controls on 46 food products in a bid to prevent speculation and tame inflation, but the measure will not come into effect until late May.

Consumer prices in the Andean country rose 4.16 percent in 2012r, less than the 5.41 percent recorded in 2011, but above the 3.33 percent seen in 2010.

High oil revenues and increased tax collection have allowed Correa to boost state spending on infrastructure and welfare projects in recent years, which has bolstered the economy.

However, economic growth slowed to 5 percent in 2012 from 8 percent in 2011, hit by slower expansion in the oil and construction sectors.

Growth is expected to slow again this year due to global economic woes and the idling of Ecuador's largest refinery, which will be partially shut down for several months for an overhaul.

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