* Central bank seen leaving rates at 4.5 pct
* Inflation eased off 2-1/5 year high in Oct
* Inflation due 0800 local (1300 GMT); rates 0900 local
MEXICO CITY, Oct 25 (Reuters) - Mexico’s central bank is forecast to leave interest rates in place on Friday, after inflation eased in the first half of the month off a 2-1/2 year high.
The Banco de Mexico has held benchmark rates at 4.5 percent since mid-2009 as the economy recovered from a deep recession.
Policymakers have been projecting slower growth in the second half of 2012, but four months of above-target inflation give the bank little wiggle room to juice the economy.
“Inflation is going down but it’s still above the (central bank‘s) 4 percent ceiling,” said Ezequiel Aguirre, a Latin America forex strategist with Bank of America in New York.
“With some indicators of economic activity recovering, we are not only expecting the bank to refrain from cutting the rate, we don’t even expect a dovish statement,” he said.
Annual inflation has been climbing since April but eased to 4.64 percent in the first half of October, fanning hopes that price increases have peaked in Latin America’s second-biggest economy.
P rices have been under pressure from spikes in the cost of eggs and chickens following an outbreak of avian flu in western Mexico. But policymakers had insisted that the jump was temporary and said inflation would fall below 4 percent by the end of the year.
“These are transitory issues,” central bank chief, Agustin Carstens, said last week, in reference to the spike in the cost of eggs and other agricultural products.
Data released on Wednesday showed fresh produce prices fell 0.39 percent from a month earlier, although they were still 16.27 percent higher than the same time last year.
Mexico’s economy grew an average 4.3 percent in annual terms in the first half of the year, but the finance ministry is predicting a more moderate expansion of 3.5-4.0 percent for 2012. Data released earlier this week showed the economy’s annual rate cooling to 3.51 percent in August, de spite a welcome rebound in retail sales in the same month.
In September, the central bank kept rates on hold but signaled it may tighten monetary policy in the future i f the inflation outlook worsens.
In a Reuters poll earlier this month, analysts were unanimous in expecting Banxico to hold rates steady at its next meeting.
The median expectation of 15 analysts was for a 25 basis point rate hike in the first quarter of 2014, a change from a month earlier when economists had tipped a hike in the second quarter. Markets are pricing in a March 2014 hike.
Analysts’ median expectation was that inflation would not fall below the ceiling until the third quarter of 2013.
Banxico, which targets inflation of 3 percent with a one percentage point tolerance band, said that the U.S. Federal Reserve’s third round of bond-buying should help cool Mexican inflation.
The U.S. action may attract funds into Mexico, putting upward pressure on the peso and trimming the cost of imported goods.