UPDATE 3-Colombia cenbank holds rate at 4.5 pct as oil prices crimp growth

viernes 20 de febrero de 2015 16:53 GYT

(Adds economist comment)

By Julia Symmes Cobb and Peter Murphy

BOGOTA Feb 20 (Reuters) - Colombia's central bank board voted unanimously on Friday to keep its key lending rate unchanged for a sixth straight month, as economic growth slows in the face of depressed oil prices.

The seven-member board voted to maintain the lending rate at 4.5 percent, meeting the forecast of all analysts in a Reuters survey this week. The board expects a most-probable growth rate in gross domestic product of 3.6 percent in 2015, versus an expected 4.8 percent for 2014.

Central bank chief Jose Dario Uribe said consumer confidence remained strong with much of the economic expansion driven by robust demand and a construction boom.

"New information for the fourth quarter of 2014 suggests that domestic demand remained dynamic and net exports have diminished more than expected," the central bank said in a statement published after the board's meeting.

The Andean nation posted an unusually large trade deficit in December of $1.45 billion. Its trade balance has been negatively affected by the sharp drop in the price of oil, its most valuable export, since June last year.

"The bank maintained its dovish tone, emphasizing deep uncertainty about the impact of the oil price fall on trade terms and internal demand," brokerage Alianza Valores said in a note to investors.

The drop in prices for crude and other commodities is slowing, the central bank said, but may have a permanent effect on trade and government revenues.   Continuación...