Colombia central bank seen holding rates for 8th month as growth slows
By Julia Symmes Cobb
BOGOTA, April 24 (Reuters) - Colombia's central bank will likely hold its benchmark interest rate steady for an eighth consecutive month on Friday in a bid to spur economic expansion as growth projections recede and inflation quickens.
All 27 analysts surveyed in a Reuters poll this week said the bank's seven-member board will keep the rate at 4.5 percent, and a majority predicted it will stay at that level through the end of the year.
Friday's board meeting comes amid concern over slowing growth and an uptick in inflation in Latin America's fourth-largest economy, while government revenue has been hit by the fall in prices for oil, Colombia's biggest export and source of foreign exchange.
"The bank will have to cautiously define its policy over the coming months, in the midst of a scenario which has obvious risks in terms of inflation and economic deceleration," banking industry group Asobancaria said in a report.
The government trimmed its growth estimate for this year to between 3.5 percent and 4 percent last week, down from 4.2 percent, because of the oil price decline.
The central bank sees 3.6 percent growth as most likely, but the board may lower its outlook at Friday's meeting, analysts said.
"Growth will not be 3.6 percent as predicted," said Angela Gonzalez, an analyst at Banco de Bogota, giving a possible range of 3 percent to 3.5 percent.
The economy, among the fastest-growing in Latin America, expanded 4.6 percent in 2014, just under the government's forecast. Continuación...