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French inflation hits near 5-1/2 year high of 1.7 pct in March

PARIS, March 30 (Reuters) - French consumer prices jumped more than expected in March, pushing the inflation rate to a near 5-1/2 year high, preliminary EU-harmonised data from the INSEE statistics body showed on Friday.

Consumer prices rose 1.1 percent in March from February as higher regulated tobacco tariffs came into force, and as the end of winter sales lifted prices for manufactured goods.

As a result, the 12-month inflation rate rose to 1.7 percent, its highest level since October 2012 and up from 1.3 percent in February.

Economists polled by Reuters had on average forecast inflation picking up to 1.5 percent in March with estimates ranging from 1.2 percent to 1.7 percent.

Separately, INSEE said producer prices rose 0.1 percent in February from January, and had risen 1.5 percent over one year. (Reporting by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta)