UPDATE 2-Mexico inflation hits fastest pace in 8 months in early Jan
MEXICO CITY, Jan 23 (Reuters) - Mexican annual inflation rose in early January at its fastest pace since May due to an uptick in soda and gasoline prices after a fiscal reform, but the central bank has said it expects the spike to be temporary. Inflation for the 12 months through the first half of January rose to 4.63 percent, the national statistics office said on Thursday, just above expectations for a 4.61 percent rise in a Reuters poll. The figure was also up from the 3.86 percent rate in the first half of December and the 3.97 percent rate for the full month. January's figure marked the first time annual inflation through the initial half of a month strayed above the central bank's 4 percent limit since June, as the finance ministry rolls back fuel subsidies and a fiscal reform approved last year raised prices on soft drinks and junk food. Mexico's central bank sees inflation finishing the year at 3.5 percent before trending down to 3 percent in 2015, and is expected to keep interest rates on hold through 2015. A poll by Banamex released earlier this week showed a consensus among analysts that the central bank will keep rates steady until March, 2015, when they predict a 25 basis point hike. Central bank governor Agustin Carstens earlier this month forecast inflation would rise above the tolerance ceiling in the coming months, but said the uptick would be temporary and wouldn't cause the bank to shift its monetary policy. Consumer prices rose 0.68 percent in the first half of the month as soda and gasoline prices jumped. The figure was just shy of expectations for a 0.69 percent rise but above a 0.4 percent rise in the first half of December. Core consumer prices, which exclude some volatile food and energy prices, rose 0.69 percent, its fastest pace since 2000. The figure was above the 0.64 percent rise expected by analysts and the 0.3 percent rise notched in early December. Mexico's central bank kept its interest rate on hold at a record low of 3.5 percent last month after cutting in September and October to counter a deep economic slowdown. Growth rebounded in the third quarter but minutes released last month showed central bankers still see risks to growth despite a raft of reforms being pushed through Congress by President Enrique Pena Nieto aimed at boosting the economy.