UPDATE 1-Peru's inflation hits 1.25% in March as 12-month figure falls -gov't

(Fills story)

LIMA, April 1 (Reuters) - Peruvian consumer price inflation based on the metropolitan region of the capital Lima accelerated 1.25% in March, according to data published Saturday by national statistics agency INEI, higher than a median forecast of 1.00% from a Reuters poll of five economists.

In comparison, Peru’s consumer prices rose 0.29% in February.

Peru’s consumer prices rose more than expected in March amid political unrest, though the 12-month rate slowed to 8.40% - down from 8.65% through the end of February - as the Andean nation battles the highest inflation levels in a quarter of a century.

Inflation from the Lima metropolitan area is seen as the national benchmark. Inflation from across the country accelerated 1.19% in March, according to INEI.

Inflation in the Lima metropolitan region was most strongly affected by education, where it grew 4.79%, and food and non-alcoholic beverages, where it increased by 2.79%, the agency said.

Transport costs fell by 0.12% in March, INEI added.

Peru, the world’s No. 2 copper producer, has seen months of political turmoil since December, with anti-government protests blocking roads and clashes with security forces leading to the deaths of dozens of people.

Just over a week ago, central bank president Julio Velarde said he expects annual inflation to ease to a rate of 3.0% by December, within the bank’s target range.

The central bank held its benchmark interest rate at 7.75% during a meeting near the start of March but warned the decision to hold the cost of money stable did not mean hikes to the rate had ended. (Reporting by Marco Aquino; Additional reporting and writing by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Paul Simao and Jonathan Oatis)