Brazil inflation to slow in May from April - minister

BRASILIA Tue May 6, 2014 10:45pm EDT

BRASILIA May 6 (Reuters) - A slowdown in rising food prices in Brazil will help inflation ease in May and stay at a comfortable level in June, Finance Minister Guido Mantega said on Tuesday.

In a interview with state-run broadcaster TV Brasil, Mantega said that inflation slowed in April and that the government will keep working to keep inflation under control.

"We had lower inflation in April and in May it will be even lower than in April. In June, we will be at a more settled level" Mantega said.

A surge in food prices caused by a drought in key rural states in Brazil's southeast pushed 12-month inflation to 6.15 percent in March, close to the ceiling of the official target range between 2.5 percent and 6.5 percent. The national statistics institute is scheduled to release April inflation figures on Friday.

Many economists expect annual inflation to pierce that ceiling in June or July due in part to a spike in the cost of meals, hotel rooms and air flights during the month-long soccer World Cup in Brazil starting on June 12.

Mantega said it is not possible at the moment to set a lower inflation target as some opposition presidential candidates have proposed ahead of the October election.

Earlier on Tuesday, central bank chief Alexandre Tombini also said that food inflation will ease in coming months, hinting that policymakers may be done raising interest rates.

The bank has raised its benchmark Selic rate by 375 basis points since April last year to 11 percent.

Although Mantega said the government has supported the rate hikes to battle inflation, he also called on private banks to disburse more consumer credit to bolster economic activity. (Reporting by Alonso Soto; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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