September 24, 2012 / 2:15 PM / 5 years ago

UPDATE 2-Mexico inflation hits 2-1/2-year high in early Sept

* Annual inflation rises to 4.73 pct vs poll of 4.82 pct

* Prices up 0.25 pct in early Sept vs poll of 0.33 pct

* Core consumer prices up 0.12 pct vs poll of 0.24 pct

MEXICO CITY, Sept 24 (Reuters) - Mexican inflation accelerated in early September to its fastest rate in 2-1/2 years, but the pick-up was less than expected by analysts and most policymakers have said they expect the spike to be temporary.�

Annual inflation accelerated to 4.73 percent in early September from 4.57 percent for the full month of August, driven by rising egg, chicken and tomato prices as well as higher education costs, the national statistics agency said on Monday.

The rate was less than the 4.82 percent rate projected in a Reuters poll, reflecting a surprise drop in fixed-line telephone rates, analysts said.

Nonetheless, the annual inflation rate marked its highest level since March 2010, and it was the fourth month it topped the central bank’s 4 percent limit for acceptable price increases.

The Bank of Mexico toughened its language in a statement earlier this month, suggesting it could raise the benchmark interest rate, which has held at 4.50 percent since mid-2009, if inflation pressures became more widespread.

But minutes from that Sept. 7 meeting released on Friday showed that the suggestion for a possible interest-rate hike was driven by two members of the five-member board, while the rest thought the price surge was a temporary bubble that did not justify higher borrowing costs.

“The three members of the board are going to keep saying that this is just temporary and a passing blip, and I think the Bank of Mexico is not going to move,” said Alonso Cervera, an economist at Credit Suisse in Mexico City.

Yields on short-term interest rate swaps were little changed after Monday’s inflation data as investors stuck to bets on steady interest rates into 2014.

Consumer prices rose 0.25 percent in the first half of this month, less than an expected 0.33 percent.

Egg and chicken prices spiked following an outbreak of avian flu in western Mexico. Policymakers have insisted that the jump in volatile food prices may soon fade.

The closely watched core price index, which strips out some volatile food and energy prices, climbed 0.12 percent, compared with analysts’ expectations for 0.24 percent.

Pressure on core prices from higher education costs, due to the back-to-school season, was offset by a drop in fixed-telephone costs, the statistics agency said.

Core non-food goods price increases were running at a 3.86 percent annual rate, showing some pressure after a slump in the peso currency during the last year pushed up import prices.

Core services prices were only 2.28 percent higher in the 12 months through early September, below the central bank’s 3 percent target rate for inflation.

The core services prices show the domestic economy is not adding price pressures that could be contained by higher interest rates, Goldman Sachs economist Alberto Ramos said.

The “central bank (is) likely to be comfortable with the lack of evidence of second-round effects from the recent large domestic and external supply shocks to food prices,” Ramos wrote in a note to clients.

Central bank chief Agustin Carstens said earlier this month that the U.S. Federal Reserve’s third round of bond-buying should help cool Mexican inflation. ID:nL1E8KDHO1]

The U.S. action is expected to strengthen the Mexican peso and drive down the cost of imported goods. Mexico’s peso has recovered about 13 percent from a three-year low hit in June.

Still, the bank stands ready to act if its 3 percent inflation target is “endangered”, Bank of Mexico board member Manuel Sanchez said last Thursday.

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