May 24, 2019 / 12:57 PM / 24 days ago

UPDATE 1-Brazil inflation hits 2-year high, but may be peaking

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By Jamie McGeever

BRASILIA, May 24 (Reuters) - Annual inflation in Brazil rose to its highest in over two years in the month to mid-May, government statistics agency IBGE said on Friday, but the monthly rate was lower than expected, suggesting price pressures could be starting to ease.

The IBGE’s broad measure of consumer price inflation rose to 4.93%, the highest since February 2017 and up from 4.71% in the month to mid-April. The median forecast in a Reuters poll of economists was for a rise to 4.98%.

The monthly rate of inflation fell to 0.35% from 0.72%, lower than the 0.42% economists had expected.

“The softer-than-expected mid-month inflation figure for May, of 4.9%, suggests that the headline rate has now peaked,” wrote William Jackson, chief emerging market economist at Capital Economics, in a note to clients.

“We think it will fall back below the central bank’s target in the coming months. Copom will be under no pressure to raise interest rates for the foreseeable future,” he said, referring to the central bank’s rate-setting committee.

The minutes from Copom’s last meeting earlier this month showed policymakers were slightly less confident in their previous statements that inflation would peak around April-May before drifting back towards 4.25% target by the end of the year.

On Wednesday, the government raised its 2019 inflation target to 4.1% from 3.8%.

According to IBGE, the price of household goods fell 0.36% on the month, communications dipped 0.04%, while food and drink and education costs were unchanged. Health and personal care goods and transport costs showed the biggest increases on the month, rising 1.0% and 0.65%, respectively. (Reporting by Jamie McGeever; Editing by David Gregorio)

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