* Brazil expected to grow 3.96 pct in 2013
* Market forecasts contrast with minister’s optimism
* 2013 and 2013 inflation estimates revised down
SAO PAULO, Nov 19 (Reuters) - Economists cut their forecasts for Brazil’s 2013 economic growth for the first time since August, a weekly central bank survey showed on Monday.
Brazil is now expected to grow 3.96 percent in 2013, the survey showed, down from an estimated growth of 4.00 percent in the previous survey.
Market forecasts contrast with Finance Minister Guido Mantega’s view that Latin America’s largest economy may grow above 4 percent in 2013 as investment picks up following $22 billion in tax breaks.
He said last week that the economy likely grew at an annualized rate of between 3.5 and 4 percent in the third quarter of this year, when it would have expanded 1 percent from the second quarter.
Consumer inflation over a 12-month period is expected to end this year at 5.45 percent, slightly down from 5.46 percent seen in the previous survey. In 2013, it is seen at 5.39 percent, down from 5.40 percent forecast a week before. The government targets inflation at 4.5 percent, with a tolerance margin of 2 percentage points.
The forecasts represent the median of predictions from about 100 financial institutions surveyed weekly by the central bank
Forecasts for the central bank benchmark interest rate remained unchanged, with analysts seeing it stable at its current record low of 7.25 percent through the end of 2013.
Policymakers have insisted that interest rates should remain low for a “prolonged period” because the recent increase in consumer prices was mainly driven by external factors such as rising food prices.
Consumer prices are expected to rise 0.50 percent in November over October, unchanged from the prior week’s survey.