BOGOTA, Sept 25 (Reuters) - Colombia’s central bank may raise its main lending rate for the first time in a year on Friday, in a meeting that will likely be split between policymakers who want to stem inflation and those looking to stimulate a slowing economy.
The seven-member board will vote to increase borrowing costs a quarter point to 4.75 percent as dry weather from the El Nino and a weakened currency push up inflation, according to 13 out of 23 analysts surveyed recently by Reuters. The remaining 10 expect the board to hold for a 13th month.
Easing growth and consumer prices that have risen above the bank’s target range - 2 to 4 percent - meant the board broke its voting unanimity in July, with some members calling for an increase back then. The benchmark rate has been held steady for 12 straight months.
“All indications are that the bank will be forced, sooner or later, to increase its rates by sending a strong signal of its commitment to controlling inflation,” said Veronica Navas, an economist at consultancy Econcept, in a recent column.
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 would mean inflation ends the year at between 4 percent and 5 percent.
The peso has weakened 56 percent over the past year, helping push annual inflation in August to 4.74 percent.
Expansion predictions for Latin America’s fourth-largest economy have been hit by falling oil revenue. Economic growth is below potential and under the official government target of 3.6 percent.
Finance Minister Mauricio Cardenas, who represents the government on the bank board, said weaker economic growth would help stem inflationary pressure, indicating he may be inclined to hold the rate steady.
“There is no reason at all to worry about inflation,” he said on Thursday.
International factors will also weigh on the board’s decision.
The recent devaluation of the Chinese currency and its impact on Colombia’s economy and peso, ongoing financial worries in Europe and the timing of an interest rate increase in the United States may also affect the voting, analysts said.
A U.S.-rate hike would make its bonds a more attractive investment and could draw money out of Colombia. (Editing by Alan Crosby)