Turkish consumer price inflation (CPI) inched down by slightly more than expected in February but remained near three-year highs while lower core inflation was seen encouraging the central bank to maintain an easing bias, which hit the lira on Monday. The consumer price index rose 10.43 per cent year-on-year, the Turkish Statistics Institute said, moderating from 10.61 per cent in January, after prices rose by 0.56 per cent last month, less than the 0.6 per cent forecast in a poll. A recent surge in inflation to three-year highs has fuelled concerns about the central bank’s strategy to rein in rising prices while ensuring a soft landing for the economy this year as it slows after growing by more than 8 per cent in 2011. Annual inflation is currently more than double the central bank’s year-end target of 5 per cent, but the latest data showed an easing in core inflation readings. “The numbers are likely to give the central bank some comfort,” said emerging forex strategist Manik Narain at UBS in London. The easing in core inflation supported the bank’s view that service prices are quite muted. “Its policies are not in need of changing any time soon,” he said, adding that the data was fairly positive for markets. Despite rising world oil prices, the producer price index fell 0.09 per cent on the month, below a forecast rise of 0.50 per cent, for an annual rise of 9.15 per cent. Analysts said the lira’s recovery against the US dollar since the start of the year had helped ease inflationary pressures. The lira weakened slightly after the data to 1.7743 against the dollar from 1.7722 beforehand. The yield on Turkey’s benchmark bond due Dec.12, 2013 fell to 9.27 per cent from 9.28 per cent before the data. Fast domestic growth, rising commodity costs and a sharply weakening lira at the end of last year had all pushed prices higher, giving Turkish policymakers a headache. The central bank has responded with a controversial policy mix which holds benchmark interest rates lower to deter speculative inflows while attempting to keep a lid on prices by managing the liquidity of banks. Last month the central bank made a surprise 100 basis point cut in its overnight lending rate as reduced concerns about the weak lira and current account deficit gave it room to help the economy gently down after last year’s rapid growth. According to the latest twice-monthly central bank survey of economists’ expectations, annual consumer price inflation is expected to end this year at 7.26 per cent, exceeding the official 5 per cent target. Analysts forecast that annual inflation would remain in double digits for a few months more despite the fall in core inflation. “In particular the fall in core inflation was positive. We expect headline inflation to remain in double digits until May and only show a lasting fall from October,” Garanti Securities strategist Tufan Comert said. According to core inflation readings, the core-H index eased to 8.47 per cent from 8.76 and the core-I reading falling to 8.12 per cent from 8.42.