* Central bank sees stable FX rate helping curb inflation
* Consumer inflation to remain slightly above 6 percent in
* Central bank sees more moderate credit expansion this year
By Patrícia Duarte
SAO PAULO, Feb 7 Brazil's central bank estimates
that a more stable exchange rate and a moderate pace of loan
growth will help inflation ease "a lot" in the second half of
the year, a source on the bank's monetary policy board said on
Twelve-month inflation will remain slightly above 6 percent
through the first half of 2013, dangerously near the 6.5 percent
ceiling of a government target, but should slow down after that,
said the source on condition of anonymity.
The source's comments came after central bank president
Alexandre Tombini told the O Globo newspaper that he is worried
about inflation in the short term. Earlier in the day,
government data showed January consumer prices rose at their
fastest monthly pace in nearly eight years.
Tombini's comments sent Brazil's interest rate futures soaring and caused the real to jump more than 1
percent to its strongest level in nearly nine months. Investors
fear the central bank may be forced to raise interest rates or
strengthen the currency to keep inflation at bay.
The source said, however, that the real is likely to be less
volatile this year, following a depreciation of about 30 percent
versus the U.S. dollar between July and November.
"Another currency depreciation such as we had (in 2012) is
not in our scenario," the source said.
A stronger real - which last traded around 1.97 per dollar,
with gains of nearly 4 percent year-to-date - could help curb
inflation by lowering the prices of imported goods.
Earlier on Thursday, government data showed Brazil's
benchmark IPCA consumer price index rose 0.86
percent in January, fueled by more expensive food. In the 12
months through January, inflation rose to 6.15 percent, the
highest reading in a year.
Other factors that should ease inflation in the second half
of the year, according to the central bank source, are a smaller
increase in Brazil's minimum wage compared with last year and a
recent fall in real estate prices.
The central bank also expects credit to grow more slowly
this year following a 16 percent expansion in 2012, the source
The source's forecast contrasts with remarks made two days
ago by Finance Minister Guido Mantega, who said Brazilian banks
plan to boost credit this year to support the economy.