By Hernan Nessi
BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina's annual inflation rate is expected to surge past 100% in February, a Reuters poll on Monday showed, underscoring the challenge for the ruling Peronist government as it battles to rein in spiraling prices ahead of elections late this year.
The Consumer Price Index (CPI) will rise some 6.2% after jumping 6% in January, according to the median forecast of surveyed analysts, taking annual inflation above three figures for the first time since the 1990s.
The National Institute of Statistics and Censuses (INDEC) is scheduled to release the official February inflation data on Tuesday afternoon.
The likely acceleration dashes hopes of bringing monthly inflation down to 4% to give some relief to hard-hit consumers and voters in the country, where one of the world's highest inflation rates constantly pushes up food and fuel costs.
"February inflation again marks a rise compared to the previous month, ... strongly impacted by food costs, mainly meat," said Jerónimo Montalvo, economist at Empiria Consultores, who forecast a 6.5% rise.
Seventeen local and foreign analysts expected an increase ranging from 5.7% to 6.5%. The median estimate was for annual inflation to reach 101.7%, higher than the 98.8% rate in January.
"Behind our forecast is 6% monthly inflation in February, which is consistent with annual inflation rising to 101.3% year-on-year," investment bank Goldman Sachs said in a report.
Lucio Garay Méndez, economist at the consultancy Eco Go, forecast a monthly 6.4% rise, driven by fast-rising meat prices in the country, a major beef producer and consumer. Housing and health costs also rose sharply.
An Argentine central bank poll previously forecast inflation of 99.9% this year with a 6.1% rise in February.
Battling inflation in Argentina, https://www.reuters.com/graphics/ARGENTINA-INFLATION/qmyvmdzmjpr/chart.png
(Reporting by Hernán Nessi; Writing by Anna-Catherine Brigida; Editing by Richard Chang)