BOGOTA, Aug 21 (Reuters) - Colombia’s central bank will probably hold its benchmark lending rate at 4.5 percent for a 12th consecutive month on Friday, though the decision may be contested by policymakers who want to raise borrowing costs to stem accelerating inflation.
Slowing economic growth and consumer prices that have risen above the bank’s target range will split the seven-member board, according to a Reuters poll of analysts last week. Last month some members voted for a 25 basis point increase.
The policy meeting comes as expansion predictions for Latin America’s fourth-largest economy have been curbed by falling oil revenue and a weakened peso that is stoking inflation.
The bank has already revised down its estimate for economic growth this year to 2.8 percent from 3.2 percent and said the depreciating peso currency would mean inflation ends the year at between 4 percent and 5 percent, higher than the target range of 2 percent to 4 percent.
“If you’d asked me a week ago I would have said with certainty that they were not going to raise the rate, but with the depreciation of the peso we now can’t rule out that they’ll do it,” said Sergio Olarte, an economist at brokerage BTG Pactual and a former central bank official.
“Nevertheless I think they need more information to be ready not just to raise the rate 25 points but to keep raising it in a mini-cycle.”
At 4.5 percent, the interest rate remains above that of Mexico, Chile and Peru but below Brazil‘s.
Of 22 analysts polled, 15 expect the board to leave borrowing costs unchanged through the end of the year.
Still, some policymakers, wary of inflationary pressures, may push for a raise in the rate at Friday’s meeting, the analysts said.
International factors will weigh heavily on the discussion.
The recent devaluation of the Chinese currency and its impact on Colombia’s economy and peso, ongoing financial turmoil in Greece and the timing of an interest rate increase in the United States will color the vote.
A U.S.-rate hike would make its bonds a more attractive investment and could draw money out of Colombia. (Additional reporting by Nelson Bocanegra; Editing by Grant McCool)