(Adds details annual rate, background) MEXICO CITY, May 24 (Reuters) - Mexican inflation cooled less than expected in early May as higher gasoline and cooking gas prices offset electricity subsidies, official data showed on Thursday. Inflation rose 4.46 percent in the 12 months through the first-half of May, the national statistics agency said, above a Reuters poll forecast for 4.40 percent, but down from 4.69 percent seen in the first-half of April. Mexican inflation has fallen back toward the central bank's 3 percent target after spiking to a 16-1/2 year high close to 7 percent late last year. Last week, the central bank held its key interest rate at a nine-year high of 7.50 percent but policymakers warned they could act if a weaker peso fans inflation pressures. Mexican consumer prices fell 0.29 percent during the first half of May, compared to forecasts for a 0.32 percent dip as summer electricity subsidies kick in for northern Mexico. The closely watched core price index , which strips out some volatile food and energy prices, climbed 0.13 percent in early May compared to estimates for a 0.12 percent increase. (Reporting by Michael O'Boyle Editing by Alistair Bell)
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