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POLL-Mexico's central bank seen holding rate steady on Thursday

Miguel Angel Gutierrez

* reuters://realtime/verb=Open/url=cpurl://apps.cp./Apps/cb-polls?RIC=MXCBIR%3DECI Poll data

MEXICO CITY, March 25 (Reuters) - Mexico's central bank is seen holding its benchmark interest steady on Thursday as inflationary pressures subside and after the U.S. Federal Reserve said it will not hike rates any more this year, according to a Reuters poll published on Monday.

The Bank of Mexico (Banxico) is expected to hold the key lending rate at 8.25 percent, the level it has been at since Dec. 20, according to 18 analysts and economists surveyed.

Mexico's annual inflation continued to slow in the first half of March, with consumer prices rising 3.95 percent in the year through February, slightly below the 3.99 percent increase registered in the second half of February, the statistics institute said on Friday.

The Fed on Wednesday brought its three-year drive to tighten monetary policy to an abrupt end, abandoning projections for any interest rate hikes this year amid signs of an economic slowdown. The U.S. central bank also said it would halt the steady decline of its balance sheet in September.

"The arguments in favor of a rate hike are running out," said Jesus Lopez, an analyst at Banco Base. "There are also risks to the downside for growth, which translate into .... lower inflationary pressures," Lopez added.

Banxico held the benchmark interest rate steady at its latest monetary policy meeting of Feb. 7, citing softer inflation and worries that economic growth could slow further in early 2019.

The bank will publish its monetary policy statement on Thursday at 1 p.m. local time (1900 GMT). (Reporting by Miguel Angel Gutiérrez; Writing by Anthony Esposito Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)