MEXICO CITY – Analysts raised their forecast for Mexican annual inflation this year for the fifth month in a row, but backed the central bank's view that the advance in consumer prices will slow its pace in 2013, a poll showed on Thursday.
Annual inflation was seen at 4.16 percent for 2012, a slight increase over last month's forecast of 4.15 percent, the central bank said in a monthly poll of economists, banks and brokerages.
But inflation estimates for 2013 were held steady at 3.76 percent. Mexican central bank governor Agustin Carstens said this week that policymakers expect inflation to cool next year after a recent spike.
Annual inflation dipped in early October off of a 2-1/2-year high of 4.77 percent in September as pressure from a jump in fresh food prices eased, spurring hopes that the increase in prices had peaked in Latin America's number two economy.
On Friday, the central bank kept interest rates steady at 4.5 percent, where they have remained since mid-2009. But it warned it would tighten monetary policy if price pressures do not abate.
Central bank board member Manuel Sanchez said on Thursday that policymakers would need to adjust interest rates in a "timely way" if the convergence of inflation toward the central bank's target of 3 percent "is endangered."
"The most essential challenge continues to be the anchoring of inflation expectations on the 3 percent permanent target," Sanchez said at an event in Houston according to a document posted on the central bank's website.
Sanchez said policymakers would be watching for so-called second round effects, which include rising wages, as well as any pressure on prices from recovering demand in the local economy.
Mexico's jobless rate fell in September to its lowest since October 2008, before a deep recession drove up unemployment. The economy has bounced back enough from that slump to where growth could pressure inflation, according to the central bank.
The central bank poll showed a forecast of 3.87 percent for economic growth this year, compared to estimates in the last poll for 3.85 percent.
Analysts raised their growth forecast for 2013 to 3.56 percent from 3.53 percent.
The poll results represent the average of forecasts of 29 experts who were consulted in the second half of October.
In a separate report, the central bank said the amount of cash sent home by Mexicans working abroad fell in September at its steepest pace since October 2009.
Mexican's living abroad sent home 1.663 billion in September, down 20.2 percent from the same month last year.
The slump followed a 12 percent drop in August and the slower flow of cash back home could crimp local consumption in the coming months, said Goldman Sachs economist Alberto Ramos.
(Reporting by Alexandra Alper and Michael O'Boyle; Editing by David Gregorio)