February 14, 2019 / 7:34 PM / 5 months ago

UPDATE 1-Argentina inflation rises 2.9 pct in January, tops forecast

(Adds average forecast, background)

BUENOS AIRES, Feb 14 (Reuters) - Argentina consumer prices rose 2.9 percent in January, the country’s official statistics bureau said on Thursday, a touch faster than in December and ahead of analysts’ forecasts as the country struggles to recover from rapid inflation last year.

The data, announced by the National Institute of Statistics and Censuses (INDEC), compared with a 2.6 percent average rise forecast by analysts polled by Reuters, adding pressure to President Mauricio Macri as he looks to stem rising prices and underscoring the challenge ahead for the country.

Fueled by a weak peso currency, consumer prices in Argentina leapt 47.6 percent in 2018, which analysts said was the highest annual rate in nearly three decades, hitting the country’s spenders as wage growth failed to keep apace.

That inflation and weak economic growth forced Macri and his administration to turn to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) last year for a $56.3 billion loan and agree to stringent economic targets set by the international lender.

The centre-right leader, however, faces a tough balancing act with economic challenges on all sides, including his push to cut subsidies for utilities that has sparked steep price hikes which in turn have fed inflation.

A central bank poll of 53 analysts earlier this month forecast full-year 2019 inflation at 29 percent, dropping to 19.5 percent in 2020.

Reporting by Jorge Otoala, Adam Jourdan and Cassandra Garrison, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien and Susan Thomas

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