* December's inflation inches higher to 1.0 percent
* INDEC says annual reading 10.8 pct vs 9.5 pct 2011
* Private estimates put inflation at 25 pct despite slowdown
By Juliana Castilla
BUENOS AIRES, Jan 15 Argentina's inflation sped
up to 10.8 percent last year, still far below
independent estimates of about 25 percent that put the country's
inflation rate as the highest in Latin America.
Inflation remains stubbornly high despite a sharp economic
slowdown in Argentina, Latin America's third-biggest economy.
Many economists say the government's loose fiscal and monetary
policies are to blame.
"The economy is showing clear signs of stagflation," Goldman
Sachs economist Alberto Ramos wrote in a briefing note.
"Inflationary pressures are so deeply entrenched that
Argentina has now surpassed Venezuela as the country with the
highest rate of inflation in the region," he added.
While Tuesday's data reflects an acceleration from the 9.5
percent rise in consumer prices reported in 2011, it is unlikely
to ease skepticism over inflation data published by the INDEC
national statistics agency.
President Cristina Fernandez is under pressure from the
International Monetary Fund to improve Argentina's widely
discredited inflation data. The IMF is set to meet late this
month to discuss Argentina's progress.
INDEC said December's consumer inflation was 1.0 percent
, slightly higher than in previous months. That
compares with a 2.2 percent estimate by private economists,
according to the median in a Reuters poll.
The poll of six economists gave a median outlook for
full-year inflation of 24.8 percent, with estimates ranging from
23.1 percent to 27.0 percent.
Economic activity is expected to pick up somewhat this year
in Argentina, and few analysts expect price pressures to cool as
the government gears up for a mid-term election scheduled for
"It's hard to think inflation will ease given loose fiscal
and monetary policy during an election year," said Nicolas
Bridger, an analyst at the Prefinex consulting firm in Buenos
Fernandez, a left-leaning Peronist who rarely mentions the
word inflation, has fined independent economists who publish
their own inflation forecasts.
Opposition lawmakers now publish the private forecasts every
month in Congress. According to their estimates, December's
inflation was 2.1 percent with the full-year figure at 25.6
December's INDEC data said price rises were fueled by
healthcare and transport and communication costs, which rose by
2.2 percent and 3.8 percent, respectively.
Both train and bus fares rose late last month in and around
Buenos Aires, the capital, explaining the sharp jump. Heavily
weighted food and drinks costs climbed a modest 0.2 percent.
Inflation was 0.9 percent in November, bringing the 12-month
figure to 10.6 percent at the end of that month.
Fernandez's government defends INDEC's statistics and has
sought to tackle inflation with price controls and export
restrictions, though plans to launch a new nationwide consumer
price index are under way.
Last year's non-official readings show Argentina with the
highest inflation rate in Latin America, surpassing Venezuela's
19.9 percent. Elsewhere in the region, Brazil closed the year
with inflation of 5.8 percent, Uruguay with 7.5 percent and
Chile with 1.5 percent.
Mariano Lamothe, an analyst at the Buenos Aires-based
consultancy Abeceb.com, said Argentina's inflation in 2012 "was
higher than one would have expected given that the economy grew
by about 1 percent."
Official forecasts point to slightly higher growth, but many
private economists also question the accuracy of gross domestic
Argentines expect inflation of 37.2 percent over the next
year, according to the latest survey by the Torcuato Di Tella