May 6 (Reuters) - Simon Property Group raised the forecast for annual funds from operations (FFO) on Monday, helped by strong leasing demand at its malls and shopping centers.

Demand for rental spaces of the commercial real estate investment trusts (REIT) has held up, as its diverse portfolio of tenants comprising apparel giants, big-box retailers, restaurants, and luxury brands benefited from consumers stretching their budgets for affordable luxuries despite sticky inflation.

Last week, peers Federal Realty Trust, Regency Centers, and Kimco also reported steady traffic at their shopping centers.

Simon Property expects FFO per share to be in the range of $12.75 to $12.90, compared with its prior FFO forecast of $11.85 to $12.10 per share. Visits to indoor malls in the U.S. fell 5% fall in March compared to an 8.5% drop seen last year, according to data analytics firm Open-air shopping centers saw visits rising 1.6% in March, compared with a decline of 3.9% last year.

The company reported FFO in first quarter at $3.56 per share, compared with analysts' average estimate of FFO $2.81 per share, according to LSEG data.

Its base minimum rent per square foot rose 3% to $57.53 as of March 31, compared to $55.84 last year.

The company posted revenue of $1.44 billion in the quarter ended March 31, compared with analysts' average estimate of $1.29 billion. (Reporting by Anuja Bharat Mistry in Bengaluru; Editing by Tasim Zahid)