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POLL-Russia seen raising key rate by 50 bps to 7.25% on Friday

* Majority of analysts expect 50 bps rate hike on Friday

* Bank of Russia to deliver decision at 1030 GMT on Friday

* Governor Elvira Nabiullina to present decision at 1200 GMT

* reuters://realtime/verb=Open/url=cpurl://apps.cp./Apps/cb-polls?RIC=RUCBIR%3DECI poll data

MOSCOW, Oct 18 (Reuters) - The Russian central bank is set to raise the key interest rate by 50 basis points on Friday to its highest since 2019 in an effort to rein in consumer inflation, a Reuters poll suggested on Monday.

Russia’s annual inflation has accelerated to its highest since February 2016, ramping up pressure on the central bank to raise rates for the sixth time so far this year after the latest 25-basis-point hike in September.

Twenty-two of 30 analysts and economists polled by Reuters predicted that the central bank will raise its key rate by 50 basis points to 7.25%, which is still below the consumer inflation rate of 7.63% as of Oct. 11.

“We think the CBR needs to raise the key rate by 50 bps in October to 7.25% and add another 25 bps in December, finishing the rate-hiking cycle at 7.5%,” said Sova Capital’s chief economist Artem Zaigrin.

The probability of a rate hike has increased in the past few weeks, said Dmitry Kulikov from ACRA rating agency, predicting a 50-basis-point step.

Central Bank Deputy Governor Alexei Zabotkin this month signalled an imminent rate hike and said the bank would raise this year’s inflation and other forecasts, including the trajectory of its key rate, at its Oct. 22 meeting.

Inflation is a sensitive issue in Russia as it eats into incomes already dented by the COVID-19 crisis and a weak rouble.

But state support measures could lead to even higher inflation, as happened before September parliamentary elections.

Last week, President Vladimir Putin ordered his government to study another package of social support measures to ease the inflation burden.

Higher rates are designed to tame inflation, which overshot the 4% target in late 2020 amid global inflation and as the weaker rouble filtered into prices in Russia.

Eight of the polled experts predicted a smaller 25-basis-point increase that would take the key rate to 7%.

“Our subjective probability of a 50 bp hike on Oct. 22 is high at 40%, but we see the CBR rather fine-tuning its policy and still assessing the impact of the tightening delivered this year, as it flagged its preference for smaller moves now,” Morgan Stanley analysts said. (Writing by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Andrey Ostroukh and Bernadette Baum)

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