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Russian December Inflation Accelerates to 2012-High 6.6%

Dec. 29 (Bloomberg) -- Russian inflation accelerated to 6.6 percent in December, matching this year’s high, as prices for food and services rose.

Consumer prices advanced 6.6 percent from a year earlier, up from 6.5 percent in November and October, the Federal Statistics Service in Moscow said today in an e-mailed statement. That matches the median estimate of 14 economists in a Bloomberg survey. Prices rose 0.5 in the month, also matching estimates. The figures are preliminary and a final report will be released Jan. 9.

Price pressures subsided after monetary policy makers unexpectedly raised interest rates by a quarter-point in September as inflation breached the 6 percent upper limit of the central bank’s target range. President Vladimir Putin on Dec. 12 said combating inflation was among the government’s top economic priorities.

“The inflation rate is seasonally higher in December due to demand pressure before the New Year’s holidays,” Maria Pomelnikova, an analyst at ZAO Raiffeisenbank in Moscow, said by phone yesterday. Next year “we expect a slowdown of inflation because of more active and coordinated anti-inflation policies by the central bank and Finance Ministry.”

The ruble is the second-best performer over the last six months among more than 20 emerging-market currencies tracked by Bloomberg, gaining 9.1 percent against the dollar.

Consumer demand has moderated, with retail sales growing at an annual rate of 4.4 percent in November and 4 percent in October, down from the average pace of more than 7 percent in the first six months of the year.

Central bank Chairman Sergey Ignatiev, whose third and final term ends in 2013, wants to hold inflation at 5 percent to 6 percent next year, half a percentage point higher than previously targeted. Inflation slowed to a post-Soviet low of 3.6 percent in April and May after the government pushed back increases in utility tariffs by six months to July 1.

Price growth in 2011 was 6.1 percent, also a post-Soviet record low.

To contact the reporters on this story: Olga Tanas in Moscow at otanas@bloomberg.net; Scott Rose in Moscow at rrose10@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at bpenz@bloomberg.net

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