* Reuters poll forecast a 0.1 percent rise
* Drop in fuel prices helped ease inflationary pressures
* Central Bank president says inflation likely to ease further (Adds comments from central bank and analyst, recasts lead, adds details on November prices)
By Felipe Iturrieta
SANTIAGO, Dec 6 (Reuters) - Consumer prices in Chile were flat for the first time this year in November after months of price spikes, as lower fuel prices pushed down transport costs, the state statistics agency said.
Chilean Central Bank President Rodrigo Vergara said consumer prices would likely continue to ease.
The consumer price index was flat at 0.0 percent in November, state statistics agency INE said on Saturday. A Reuters poll had forecast a 0.1 percent rise.
Lower oil prices - which have fallen about 40 percent since June - dragged transportation costs down 0.8 percent, the state statistics agency said. Food and drink prices slipped 0.5 percent.
“We think inflation is going to start to decline and that we will be close to our goal around the middle of next year,” Vergara told reporters on the sidelines of an IMF regional conference in Santiago.
The central bank aims to keep the annual inflation rate between 2 percent and 4 percent. It has remained above the upper limit for eight straight months, but slowed to 5.5 percent in November from the five-year high of 5.7 percent posted in October.
Chile lowered gas prices for consumers last month to dampen inflation as global oil prices fell.
The central bank, which has cut the benchmark interest rate 200 basis points in the past year, said last month it would not continue monetary easing until inflation had cooled.
Benjamin Sierra, an analyst with Scotiabank, said the oil price slump would likely help lower prices further in December. “We expect the inflationary retreat to intensify in months ahead,” Sierra said.
President Michelle Bachelet said last week inflation would likely be flat or negative for November and December, bringing down the annual rate to 5 percent by the end of the year.
Chile’s weakening peso and higher consumer taxes had contributed to rising prices in recent months.
Core inflation, which excludes more volatile price fluctuations, was 0.3 percent in November.
Writing by Mitra Taj; editing by Louise Heavens and Susan Thomas