UPDATE 1-Venezuela's annual inflation hit 49.4 pct in September
CARACAS Oct 10 (Reuters) - Venezuela's annual inflation rate rose to 49.4 percent in September, from 45.4 percent in August, putting more pressure on President Nicolas Maduro's government as it seeks to bring the economy to heel.
It was the OPEC nation's highest annual rate since the government changed the formula used to calculate the figure five years ago. Consumer prices increased 4.4 percent month-on-month, the central bank said, compared with 3.0 percent in August.
Maduro's administration has vowed to rein in inflation this year, but officials have indicated they will revise the year-end target of between 15 percent and 20 percent set last year.
The central bank said September's price rises were driven by a 9.7 percent spike for housing services, a 6.6 percent jump for alcohol and tobacco, and a 6.3 percent increase for education.
Shortages of products ranging from corn flour to toilet paper worsened slightly in September versus the previous month, with the bank's "shortage index" rising to 21.2 percent from 20.0 percent.
Heavy state spending in 2012, which helped Maduro's predecessor Hugo Chavez win re-election last year, followed by a devaluation of the bolivar currency in February, have fueled inflation in the country of 29 million people.
The government blames inflation on unscrupulous merchants arbitrarily raising prices of staple goods and basic services.
Maduro won an April election to succeed Chavez, Venezuela's leader for 14 years, after his death from cancer in March.
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