UPDATE 2-Chile economy grows at slowest pace in nearly 6 years
(Recasts first paragraph; adds comments from Finance Minister, economist)
By Anthony Esposito
SANTIAGO, March 7 (Reuters) - Chile's economy grew at its slowest pace in almost six years in January as a rout in copper prices hurt the key mining sector, though the government downplayed the data, saying it expected better numbers in February.
The IMACEC economic activity index, encompassing about 90 percent of the economy tallied in gross domestic product figures, rose 0.3 percent in January from the same month a year ago, central bank data showed on Monday.
Services activity growth was curtailed by a fall in mining and manufacturing, the central bank said.
However, the reading came in above expectations of a 0.1 percent rise. Some analysts had even forecast a contraction, against a strong comparative.
"What happened is not a surprise for us. We're comparing ourselves to the so-called green shoots from last year, we have one less (working) day," Finance Minister Rodrigo Valdes told journalists.
Valdes said he expects growth rates to gradually increase in coming months, adding "the February figure is going to be much higher than this one."
January's IMACEC reading was the weakest since Chile's economy expanded 0.1 percent in March 2010, immediately after a devastating earthquake. Continuación...