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SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Economists trimmed forecasts for Brazil's inflation rate for 2012 for a fifth week, after estimating that consumer prices last year topped the official target for the first time since 2003, a central bank weekly survey showed on Monday.
Estimates for 2012 inflation, as measured by changes in the benchmark IPCA consumer price index, edged down to 5.32 percent in the week ended December 30 - the lowest level in more than three months - from a prior 5.33 percent, according to the bank's Focus survey. Policymakers expect inflation to finish 2012 within the official 2.5 to 6.5 percent target range.
According to the survey, estimates showed that inflation ended 2011 at 6.55 percent, above the bank's 6.5 percent target range ceiling. Last year is expected to have been the first since 2003 that policymakers missed the target, according to the central bank.
The central bank recently calculated a 54 percent probability of missing its inflation target in 2011. Policymakers expect inflation at 4.7 percent in 2012. [ID:nL1E7NM0IY]
The government is scheduled to release inflation data for the month of December and all of 2011 on Friday.
A deteriorating global economy is helping ease price pressures and cooling prospects for Brazil's economic expansion, the survey showed. Growth forecasts for 2012 declined to 3.30 percent, while that for 2011 ended at 2.87 percent.
Brazil's economy expanded 7.5 percent in 2010, the fastest pace in 24 years.
According to the survey, economists forecast the benchmark Selic interest rate at 9.50 percent by the end of 2012, maintaining their outlook from the week before. The Selic ended 2011 at 11 percent.
The Focus survey is published on a weekly basis by the central bank, which polls more than 100 financial institutions on their 12- and 24-month predictions for the most relevant economic indicators in the country.
Reporting By Asher Levine and Jose de Castro; Editing by Guillermo Parra-Bernal and James Dalgleish