Argentina posts 1.2 percent inflation in June in landmark national reading

A customer shops for groceries at a supermarket in Buenos Aires June 13, 2008. REUTERS/Enrique Marcarian

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Consumer prices rose 1.2 percent in Argentina in June, government statistics agency Indec said on Tuesday, marking the first time the South American country has published a national index since President Mauricio Macri took office in late 2015.

Inflation in the greater Buenos Aires area - previously used as a proxy - was 1.4 percent in June and 21.9 percent for the prior 12 months. In the first half of the year, consumer prices rose 11.8 percent nationwide and 12 percent in greater Buenos Aires.

The nationwide index represented a milestone for Macri’s efforts to restore the credibility of the country’s official statistics after widespread allegations that former President Cristina Fernandez’s administration manipulated the statistics to make them look rosier than they really were.

Indec resumed publishing an inflation index for greater Buenos Aires last year after a months-long absence. In November, the IMF lifted its censure against the statistics agency.

The central bank said it would now use the national index as the reference for monetary policy. On Tuesday, the bank kept its benchmark interest rate unchanged at 26.25 percent, noting that inflation expectations remain above its target range of 12-17 percent.

“The economy has returned to its path of disinflation,” the central bank wrote. “While core inflation in June was lower than previous months, this change should be taken with caution given that it has persistently been higher than the monetary authority’s target levels this year.”

Economists expect national inflation of 21.5 percent this year.

Reporting by Buenos Aires newsroom; writing by Luc Cohen; editing by Diane Craft and Jonathan Oatis