(Adds details on full-year inflation, background)
BUENOS AIRES, Sept 12 (Reuters) - Argentine inflation unexpectedly eased in August although it still clocked in at 18.2 percent since the start of the year, one of the highest rates in the world.
Consumer prices in Latin America’s No. 3 economy rose 1.3 percent in August, down from a 1.4 percent gain in the previous month, the Economy Ministry said on Friday.
The median forecast in a Reuters poll of eight economists had been for them to hold steady.
Private consumption is seen dropping this year as inflation erodes purchasing power and a bleaker economic outlook in the wake of Argentina’s default dampens consumer confidence.
More and more Argentines who have seen their wages drop in real terms over the past few years are struggling to eke out their salaries until the end of the month.
Analysts expect the fall in consumer spending as well as a decline in industrial output to result in an economic contraction of between 2 and 3 percent this year.
A sharp currency devaluation in January fuelled inflation as Argentine businesses and merchants raised prices to adjust to the new exchange rate.
Private economists say Argentina’s inflation rate may reach 40 percent in 2014, up from about 25 percent last year.
Argentina’s government is widely suspected by economists of manipulating official inflation figures since 2007 for political gain as well as to reduce payments on the country’s inflation-indexed debt.
The South American country revamped its consumer price index this year in an effort to win back the trust of investors after years of blatantly under-reporting inflation.
The government has implemented unconventional measures such as supermarket price caps in an attempt to control inflation.
But independent economists say the key issue is excessive deficit spending and they criticise the government’s introduction of new subsidies since the default. (Reporting by Alejandro Lifschitz and Sarah Marsh; Editing by Diane Craft and Chizu Nomiyama)