UPDATE 1-Mexico headline inflation eases slightly in early Jan, core rate rises

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MEXICO CITY, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Mexican headline inflation eased slightly in early January from the last half of December, though a measure of core inflation accelerated to its highest level in over 20 years, official data showed on Monday.

Inflation in Mexico slowed to 7.13% in the first half of January from 7.26% in the previous two week period, but was still more than double the central bank's target rate of 3%, the figures from national statistics office INEGI showed.

The reading compared with the final forecast of a Reuters poll of analysts for a reading of 7.11%. A preliminary survey last week had predicted inflation would come in at 7.13%.

The core index of inflation, which strips out some volatile items, ticked up to 6.11% from 6.00% in the last half of December. That took the index to its highest level since October 2001, according to official records.

Some members of the central bank have highlighted the risk to price stability posed by core inflation, and the latest figures may solidify expectations that the Bank of Mexico will raise interest rates again when it meets again next month.

Compared with the previous two week period, consumer prices rose by 0.39% in the first half of January. The core index of prices increased by 0.34% over the same period. (Reporting by Miguel Angel Gutierrez Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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