March 6, 2020 / 11:42 AM / 23 days ago

UPDATE 1-Consumer prices double market prediction in protest-hit Chile

(Adds details on rises, context of protests)

SANTIAGO, March 6 (Reuters) - Chile consumer prices rose 0.4% in February, the government’s statistics agency said on Friday, pushed upwards by a rise in food, clothing and transportation costs.

Annual inflation hit 3.9%, nearing the upper limit of the central bank’s 2% to 4% range.

Statistics agency INE said nine of the 12 divisions that make up its basket of goods had seen price increases, principally rises of 1.3% in transport costs, 2.4% in clothing and shoes and 0.7% in food and non-alcoholic drinks. They were balanced by a 1.1% drop in the price of recreation and culture.

Chile was hit late last year by the most violent, widespread protests seen since its return to democracy in 1990, initially over a rise in public transport costs. At least 31 were killed in the unrest, more than 3,000 injured and at least 30,000 arrested.

It hammered both economic growth and the local currency but inflation was kept in check, despite a rise in food costs, by the government announcing measures to suspend increases in public transport and utilities.

Analysts had predicted a rise in consumer prices early this year but today’s figure is double the 0.2% the market predicted.

Protests restarted in earnest in Chile this week with the end of the long southern hemisphere summer holiday, with some metro stations closed and demonstrators fighting running battles with police in several cities. Friday has become the principal day for protests, including in Chile’s central Plaza Italia square. (Reporting by Dave Sherwood and Aislinn Laing; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Alex Richardson)

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