(Recasts first sentence with comments by Carstens on rate hike)
MEXICO CITY, Jan 8 (Reuters) - Mexico will probably have to raise interest rates this year, given the Federal Reserve’s own expected hike in U.S. borrowing costs, central bank governor Agustin Carstens said on Thursday.
In December, Mexico’s central bank held rates steady at a record low 3 percent. A recent poll showed that analysts expect policymakers to increase rates by September following an expected midyear rate hike in the United States.
The Fed’s widely expected move could slam Mexican markets as investors dump riskier emerging market assets in favor of safer U.S. investments.
“Facing the imminent increase in interest rates in the United States, there is a high probability that interest rates in Mexico will have to go up also this year,” Carstens said at an event in Mexico City.
The expected shift in U.S. monetary policy combined with plunging oil prices also poses risks for Mexico’s economy this year, Carstens added.
The slump in oil prices to about $50 per barrel and expectations for a rate increase by the Fed have hammered the peso, which has fallen by more than 13 percent since June, threatening to push consumer prices higher.
“In 2015, it’s feasible that Mexico’s economy will face a complicated international environment, with the fall in oil prices and the possibility of other shocks due to a change in U.S. monetary policy,” Carstens said.
Data on Thursday showed Mexico’s annual inflation rate cooled in December to 4.08 percent but remained above the central bank’s 4 percent ceiling.
Carstens reaffirmed his view that inflation will approach the central bank’s 3 percent target by the middle of this year, as the effect of last year’s tax hikes eases, and slack remains in Latin America’s No. 2 economy.
The bank expects economic growth of 3 to 4 percent this year, after reaching an estimated 2 to 2.5 percent for 2014.
Separately, at an event in Mexico City, Finance Minister Luis Videgaray promised to keep a tight rein on public spending and pledged to avoid imposing any new tax burdens.
“Whatever need there is for an adjustment due to a reduction in income will have to be accommodated by cutting public spending,” he said. “There will not be an increase in the public deficit ... and of course there will be not be tax increases.” (Reporting by Mexico Newsroom; editing by Tom Brown and Matthew Lewis)