(Adds central bank and analyst comments, background)
SANTIAGO, Jan 15 (Reuters) - Chile’s central bank held the benchmark interest rate at 3.0 percent on Thursday, as widely expected by the market, and maintained its neutral policy stance.
The bank cut the interest rate 200 basis points between October 2013 and October 2014 to stimulate the flagging economy, but has said it wants to wait for inflation to cool before easing any further.
In its post-meeting statement, the bank said it will continue to monitor inflation with “special attention,” and that output and demand data still point to low economic growth.
Consumer prices fell 0.4 percent in December from the previous month, the first negative reading since April 2013, driven by a global slide in oil prices.
Still, inflation finished 2014 at an annual rate of 4.6 percent, the highest end-of-year level in six years, while core inflation, which strips out the more volatile energy and food costs, rose during the month.
Some 95 percent of 65 traders surveyed in the central bank’s fortnightly poll earlier this week expected the rate to be kept on hold at 3.0 percent.
“The decision taken today was completely expected because, even though domestic activity and demand levels are not favorable, there are still a series of goods and especially services whose prices are rising,” Banco Santander said in a note to clients. (Reporting by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Diane Craft and Andre Grenon)