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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Brazil Inflation December 2007

Brazil's consumer prices rose at the fastest inter-monthly rate in over two years last month, making it harder for the central bank to further cut Latin America's highest benchmark lending rate. Consumer prices, as measured by the IPCA index, jumped 0.74 percent in December, the biggest increase since October 2005, the national statistics agency said. The gain, fueled by food prices, was almost twice the 0.38 percent increase in November and pushed the annual rate to 4.46 percent.

Higher food prices accounted for most of the inflation increase, climbing 2.1 percent in December, the biggest gain since January 2003. Food prices climbed 10.8 percent last year and were responsible for almost half the increase in the annual rate, which accelerated for the first time in five years.

The central bank ended a two year cycle of interest rate cuts on Oct. 17 2007, after inflation began to accelerate. With both economic growth and annual inflation picking up speed, the central bank is unlikely to make further reductions to the overnight rate, which is already at a record low of 11.25 percent, and may be forced to raise rates at some point this year.

Brazil's central bank targets annual inflation of 4.5 percent. A plus or minus 2 percentage point range can be used to accommodate unexpected price shocks. ABN Amro expects inflation to quicken to 4.8 percent this year, up from an earlier forecast of 4.3 percent.

The real gained 0.5 percent to 1.7501 per dollar at 12:15 p.m. New York time yesterday, following a gain of 20 percent last year.

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