(Adds expected first quarter growth)
BOGOTA, May 8 (Reuters) - Colombia’s central bank lowered its 2015 growth estimate on Friday as lower oil prices cut export earnings and said that inflation will likely accelerate to the upper limit of the bank’s target range before easing next year.
The central bank expects the economy to expand 3.2 percent this year, down from its previous estimate of 3.6 percent, as analysts had been expecting, based on recent comments by central bank director Jose Dario Uribe.
The new figure would take growth below the economy’s capacity as lower oil prices leave the country’s government with less cash to invest, Uribe said in his delivery of a quarterly inflation report.
The government’s own growth forecast is somewhere within a range of 3.5 to 4 percent.
Colombia’s economy is expected to have grown around 2.7 percent in the first quarter, Uribe said.
Although inflation is seen rising this year from the 3.66 percent rate for 2014, it is expected to ease to around 3 percent in 2016, the bank’s preferred level within its target 2 percent to 4 percent range, Uribe said.
He said the current account deficit would be similar to last year, when it stood at 5.2 percent. He said that would be a good result given slower growth in gross domestic product than last year’s 4.6 percent.
Central bank board member Ana Fernanda Maiguashca told Reuters earlier on Friday that growth of around 3 percent would be a “positive result” given unfavorable global economic conditions, but said there was little room to cut rates to spur growth due to the recent deepening of the current account deficit. (Reporting by Peter Murphy, Nelson Bocanegra and Luis Jaime Acosta; Editing by Leslie Adler and Andre Grenon)