UPDATE 1-Chile central bank maintains neutral bias on interest rates

lunes 1 de junio de 2015 09:14 GYT

(Adds comments from central bank, analyst)

SANTIAGO, June 1 (Reuters) - Chile's central bank policy-makers are maintaining a neutral bias on interest rates, according to minutes of their May 14 monetary policy meeting, when the bank held the key rate at 3.0 percent for a seventh straight month.

The bank's five governing board members unanimously decided to keep the benchmark rate steady last month and no other options were weighed, the minutes showed on Monday.

"About the domestic economy, all five Board members agreed that first-quarter figures confirmed a moderate rebound in growth, although the most recent data showed a loss of momentum," the minutes said.

Gross domestic product in Chile, the world's top copper producer, grew 2.4 percent in the first quarter versus a year earlier. That comes after economic growth slowed to a five-year low of 1.9 percent last year as mining investment and consumer demand cooled.

Between October 2013 and October 2014 the bank slashed the interest rate 200 basis points to stimulate a flagging economy, but signs of a nascent recovery and above-target inflation has since stayed its hand.

Central Bank President Rodrigo Vergara said on April 1 that the bank's operating assumption was that it would raise the benchmark interest rate toward the end of 2015 or the start of next year.

"Importantly, the (central bank's) directors remain of the view that the current policy stance is broadly accommodative, consistent with the cyclical position of the Chilean economy and the envisaged convergence of inflation to the target," said Goldman Sachs economist Tiago Severo.

(Reporting by Anthony Esposito Editing by W Simon)