By Silvio Cascione
SAO PAULO, April 9 (Reuters) - Economists lowered their 2012 Brazil inflation forecasts after data showing lower-than-expected inflation in March, according to a central bank survey of economists published on Monday.
The bank survey, which tracks weekly forecasts of the most-widely watched economic indicators in Brazil, showed analysts foresee an annual inflation of 5.06 percent by the end of this year compared with last week’s 5.27 percent prediction.
Brazil’s benchmark IPCA consumer price index rose 5.24 percent in the 12 months through March, below forecasts of a 5.4-percent rise, Brazil’s national statistics agency IBGE said on Thursday.
The central bank targets inflation of 4.5 percent annually, with a tolerance range of plus or minus 2 percentage points.
The survey’s view for annual inflation next year remained at 5.50 percent.
The country’s benchmark interest rate is expected to end this year at 9 percent, the so-called Focus survey showed, unchanged from last week’s forecasts.
Brazil’s central bank cut rates by a larger-than-expected 75 basis points to 9.75 percent on March 7 after a sharp economic slowdown in the second half of 2011. In its meeting minutes, it said rates will probably fall to “slightly above” record lows and then stabilize at that level.
The median estimate for economic growth for 2012 stood at 3.20 percent. Analysts also kept unchanged their estimates for growth in 2013 at 4.20 percent.
The survey’s results are the median forecast of analysts polled by the central bank at about 100 financial institutions.