UPDATE 2-Colombia central bank divided but holds key rate at 4.5 pct

viernes 21 de agosto de 2015 17:48 GYT

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By Julia Symmes Cobb

BOGOTA Aug 21 (Reuters) - Colombia's central bank held its benchmark interest rate for a 12th consecutive month on Friday, as policymakers grapple with the twin constraints of faster inflation and an economy weakened by the plunge in global oil prices.

The seven-member board decided to maintain the lending rate at 4.5 percent, meeting the forecast of 20 out of 22 analysts in a Reuters survey last week.

Some members favored raising the rate, board co-director Jose Dario Uribe said, though the majority voted to leave the rate unchanged.

"Inflation remains above the upper limit of the target range and domestic spending in the economy continues to adjust to the lower dynamic of national income," the board said in a statement.

The decision 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 currency reached another record low on Friday, closing at 3,101 pesos to the dollar. Analysts said the effect of continued depreciation on inflation may hasten the arrival of rate hikes.

Low prices for crude, Colombia's biggest export and source of foreign exchange, explained the sharp drop in the currency, the statement said, adding that if commodity prices continue at current levels, national income will be lower than expected.   Continuación...