UPDATE 2-Argentina unveils new inflation index to temper critics
BUENOS AIRES Feb 13 (Reuters) - Argentina unveiled a new consumer price index on Thursday, hoping to tame criticism the government is underreporting inflation and seeking to restore investor confidence in official economic data.
According to the revamped index, Argentina's consumer prices rose 3.7 percent in January compared to December, Economy Minister Axel Kicillof announced on Thursday.
The figure was the first reading published under a new index designed in consultation with the International Monetary Fund. The previous index had been widely discredited and was widely considered to under report the actual number, prompting censure from the IMF.
Alberto Ramos, an economist with Goldman Sachs, said the January figure was "better than expected," and appeared to be a "genuine effort" to narrow the gap between official figures and private inflation estimates.
"The key issue going forward will be whether they are consistent and stay the course because one data point does not make a trend," he said.
Analysts have accused Argentina's government of manipulating inflation figures since early 2007 for political gain as well as to reduce payments on its inflation-indexed debt.
Private economists estimated consumer prices rose 5.6 percent last month, according to the median in a Reuters poll of six analysts. Independent economists say Argentine inflation is running at about 30 percent annually.
Already suffering from one of the world's highest rates of inflation, the figure spiked in January as a sharp devaluation of the peso made imports more expensive. Continuación...