(adds historical comparisons)
MEXICO CITY, March 9 (Reuters) - Mexico’s annual inflation rate eased in February to the central bank’s 3 percent target for the first time in nearly 9 years, backing bets that the bank will leave interest rates at a record low in the coming months to support a sluggish economy.
Inflation in the 12 months through February eased to 3.00 percent, national statistics office data showed on Monday, below the 3.02 percent expected in a Reuters poll and down from 3.07 in January.
The figure was the lowest since May, 2006.
Mexico’s annual inflation rate has eased back from a nine-month high in October, and the central bank has said it expects inflation to fall below its 3 percent target by the end of the year amid slack domestic demand in the economy.
The bank left its benchmark interest rate on hold at 3 percent in February, but said a slump in the peso, triggered by plunging oil prices, could add to inflation.
The peso tumbled on Friday despite central bank intervention, hitting a six-year low as investors fled emerging markets and bet that higher interest rates are in store on both sides of the border.
Mexico is seen raising interest rates once the U.S. Federal Reserve lifts borrowing costs.
Consumer prices rose by 0.19 percent in February from January, compared with expectations for a 0.21 percent rise .
Core inflation, which strips out some volatile food and energy costs, rose 0.34 percent, below forecasts for a 0.37 percent rise. (Reporting by Alexandra Alper; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)