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PREVIEW-Brazil 2017 inflation target elusive despite November uptick

* reuters://realtime/verb=Open/url=cpurl://apps.cp./Apps/econ-polls?RIC=BRCPI%3DEC I

SAO PAULO, Dec 4 (Reuters) - Brazil's inflation rate is likely to undershoot the official 2017 target despite an uptick in November, a Reuters poll of economists showed, adding to pressure for further interest rate cuts next year.

Consumer prices as measured by the official IPCA index likely rose 2.88 percent in the 12 months through November, according to the median of 27 forecasts.

That would mark the fastest rate since June, right before inflation plummeted below the bottom end of the government's target range of 4.5 percent plus or minus 1.5 percentage points.

Though inflation has since rebounded, many economists fear it may end the year below the government's target for the first time in two decades.

For once, there is scope for a downward surprise in the November reading, with the three most accurate forecasters coming in below the median. Thomson Reuters Star Mine's SmartEstimate, which weighs contributors according to past performance, also points to a lower figure.

The consumer price figures, due on Friday at 9:00 a.m. local time, will likely show a 0.35 percent monthly increase, according to the poll.

But the central bank's biggest hurdle is likely to come in December, when a power tariff cut is scheduled to take effect.

With unemployment at double digits and economic growth muted, higher electricity rates have been the biggest driver of price hikes in recent months after scarce rains weighed on hydropower generation.

That trend may hit a bump, however, after regulators agreed to set lower tariffs in December.

"This came to us as a surprise given the low levels of the hydropower plants' reservoirs," JPMorgan economists wrote in a note. "Such change means a cut in electricity prices of the order of 4 percent, reducing the IPCA by around 14 basis points next month."

JPMorgan is among the forecasters that lowered their year-end inflation forecast below the official target following the power tariff cut announcement. Banco J. Safra, the third-most accurate contributor, also reduced its 2017 estimate, to 2.8 percent from 3 percent.

Should those expectations be confirmed, the central bank would be legally required to issue an open letter explaining the move, adding to calls for additional rate cuts early in 2018.

The central bank is widely expected to reduce the benchmark Selic interest rate to an all-time low of 7 percent this week, according to a recent Reuters poll. Most economists expect a final 25 basis-point cut at its next policy meeting in February, but 18 of 48 saw the bank standing pat.

Policymakers have slashed rates by 675 basis points since October 2016 to support a nascent recovery from Brazil's deepest recession in a century.

The slow economic pickup has helped keep a lid on inflation this year, while a record agricultural harvest drove food prices lower. Economists expect food deflation to continue easing in November, though services inflation, which tracks local demand, is likely to remain subdued. (Reporting by Bruno Federowski; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)