UPDATE 3-Colombia economy grows 2.8 pct in 1st qtr, meets estimates

viernes 12 de junio de 2015 18:23 GYT

(Adds 2015, 2016 GDP forecasts)

By Nelson Bocanegra and Peter Murphy

BOGOTA, June 12 (Reuters) - Colombia's economy grew 2.8 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, the government said on Friday, in line with analysts' expectations but the slowest quarterly growth in two and a half years as lower oil prices put a brake on expansion.

Finance Minister Mauricio Cardenas hailed the result as the fastest first-quarter growth among Latin America's six biggest economies and said it was notable given it came on top of 6.4 percent expansion in the first quarter last year.

Latin America's fourth-largest economy expanded 0.8 percent in the first quarter from the previous three-month period, national statistics agency DANE said.

Civil construction remained one of the main growth drivers, government data showed, growing 4.9 percent from the same quarter last year while financial services grew 4.4 percent. Manufacturing contracted 2.1 percent and mining 0.1 percent.

"It's a good showing, in line with what was expected given the context, and it supports our forecast that the economy will grow around 3.3 percent this year," said Camilo Perez, head of research at the Banco de Bogota.

He said he expects the central bank to hold interest rates steady at 4.5 percent for the rest of the year.

Later on Friday, Cardenas announced a government 2015 gross domestic product growth target of 3.6 percent. Previously the government had forecast an increase between 3.5 and 4 percent because oil price volatility made predictions difficult.   Continuación...