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SANTIAGO, Feb 6 (Reuters) - Inflation rose in Chile in January, confounding market forecasts for a decline, as lower fuel costs were outweighed by rising prices for tobacco, healthcare and new cars.
Chile’s consumer price index rose 0.1 percent from December, government statistics showed on Friday, above the market forecast for a 0.3 percent fall.
The core inflation rate, which strips out more volatile fuel and food prices, was up 0.6 percent.
Chile, which imports almost its hydrocarbons, has enjoyed a temporary boon from the global fall in the oil price. Gasoline costs, for instance, fell 10.7 percent in the month.
But persistently high inflation, driven by a weakening peso that had made imports more expensive, has yet to be tamed in Chile, the top copper exporter.
Inflation in the 12 months to January was 4.5 percent, slightly below last month’s 4.6 percent but still well above the central bank’s 2 percent to 4 percent target range. It first rose above the tolerance range last April, although the bank has repeatedly said it expects a return toward 3 percent this year.
Faced with a slowing economy, the bank began an easing cycle in October 2013, but has stayed its hand in recent months as it waits for inflation to cool.
The peso rose 0.4 percent against the dollar on Friday morning, as traders bet that January’s surprise inflation reading makes an imminent rate cut less likely.
Economists have been expecting the bank to resume easing in the second quarter. (Reporting by Rosalba O‘Brien; Additional reporting by Froilan Romero; Editing by W Simon and J Benkoe)