UPDATE 2-Venezuelan inflation higher in March at 2.4 pct

* Inflation spikes following food price rises

* Prices seen higher this year after Jan devaluation
(Updates with official confirmation)

By Ana Isabel Martinez

CARACAS, April 8 (BestGrowthStock) – Venezuela’s inflation sped up
in March to 2.4 percent, the Central Bank said on Thursday, as
prices began to reflect the increased cost of imports after a
devaluation of the bolivar currency in January.

Inflation was 1.2 percent in March last year and 1.6
percent in February this year, but consumer prices rose in
March after the government of President Hugo Chavez relaxed
controls on the prices of some food items.

Inflation for the first quarter of 2010 is running at 5.8
percent, compared to 4.8 percent a year ago, the bank said.

Annual inflation was 26.2 percent in March, below the 28.1
percent reported a year earlier, the bank said.

Venezuela has one of the world’s highest inflation rates,
and many economists predict a sharper price spike in 2010
because of the devaluation.

Government warnings to retailers after the devaluation not
to raise prices were backed by the nationalization of the Exito
supermarket chain owned by France’s Casino (CASP.PA: ) on
accusations of price gouging.

That chilled inflation in the first two months of the year.
In March, however, the government relaxed price controls on
products such as chicken, rice and sugar.

Stock Market Research

(Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Anthony Boadle and
James Dalgleish)

UPDATE 2-Venezuelan inflation higher in March at 2.4 pct