Argentine annual inflation hit 27-year high in 2018

(Updates with highest rate since 1991, background on 2018 crisis)

BUENOS AIRES, Jan 15 (Reuters) - Consumer price inflation in Argentina in 2018, fueled by a weak peso currency, was a whopping 47.6 percent, data from the National Institute of Statistics and Censuses showed on Tuesday

That was the highest annual rate since 1991, analysts said. Consumer prices rose 2.6 percent in December, the data showed.

The monthly and annual figures were in line with market expectations, according to analysts consulted by Reuters who estimated an increase for the consumer price index of 2.5 percent in December and 47.4 percent for 2018.

"The central bank's priority is to prevent episodes such as those experienced in 2018 from recurring," Argentina's central bank said in a digital communication with journalists.

"Because monetary policy acts with lags and corrections to regulated prices and pending wage agreements, it is normal to expect monthly inflation to remain at these levels in the coming months," the bank added.

Inflation was fueled in part by a weakening Argentine peso, which lost more than half its value against the dollar in 2018.

The currency crisis prompted Argentina to sign a $56.3 billion financing deal with the International Monetary Fund, the largest rescue package in IMF history, to ensure the country would meet its financing needs through 2020.

The IMF deal calls on Argentine to erase its primary fiscal deficit this year. As part of its fiscal effort, the government cut public utility subsidies. This contributed to inflation by pushing up household water, electricity and heating gas bills to levels that many Argentines struggled to pay as their paychecks were also losing value.

(Reporting by Jorge Otaola; writing by Cassandra Garrison)

2019-01-15 22:15:51

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