UPDATE 1-Mexico inflation cools further below central bank target
(Adds background) MEXICO CITY, May 9 (Reuters) - Mexico's annual inflation cooled in April further below the central bank's 3 percent target, giving policymakers room to keep interest rates on hold amid concerns about a weak currency. Inflation in the 12 months through April cooled to 2.54 percent, the national statistics agency said on Monday. That compared with a forecast of 2.61 percent in a Reuters poll and 2.60 percent in March. After falling to a record low in 2015, inflation in Latin America's No. 2 economy is posting the longest period on record below the central bank's 3 percent target. The central bank said last week, when it held interest rates steady, that it expects inflation to creep up above 3 percent later this year but to fall back to target by the end of 2016. Mexican policymakers unexpectedly hiked interest rates in February to support the peso, which has tumbled since late 2014 to record lows amid the slump in oil prices and worries about global growth. Last week, Mexico's central bank suggested it could hike again if currency weakness fans inflation expectations but policymakers said there was no sign yet of widespread price pressures from the weak peso. While the peso recovered some ground after the February hike, the currency fell sharply last week and again on Monday. The new data showed consumer prices fell 0.32 percent in April, a bigger drop than estimates of a 0.25 percent decrease, falling on summer electricity price subsidies and lower tomato and onion prices. The core index, which strips out some volatile food and energy prices, rose 0.22 percent during the month, higher than a 0.19 percent seen in the poll. The 12-month core inflation rate rose to 2.83 percent, the highest rate since December 2014. That was above a forecast of 2.8 percent and a 2.76 percent rate in March. (Reporting by Michael O'Boyle; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)
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