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BOGOTA, March 10 (Reuters) - Colombia’s economy grew 3.1 percent in 2015 compared with the year before, the government said on Thursday, just shy of its 3.2 percent forecast.
Latin America’s fourth-largest economy has been battered by a fall in oil revenue and sharp increases in inflation over the last year, as global crude prices plunged and the peso currency lost about 23 percent of its value against the dollar.
Thursday’s figures marked the slowest annual economic expansion for six years. The economy grew 4.4 percent in 2014.
Gross domestic product expanded 3.3 percent in the fourth quarter, compared with the same period in 2014, the DANE statistics agency told journalists.
The economy grew 0.6 percent during the last three months of the year compared with the previous quarter.
“During 2015 we had to confront great challenges because of the oil fall,” Finance Minister Mauricio Cardenas said on Twitter. “The results show we adopted the right policies.”
The government expects growth of 3 percent this year, even as policymakers raise the benchmark lending rate to grapple with inflation approaching 8 percent and a deep current account deficit.
Consumer prices were up 7.59 percent in the twelve months to February and are expected to reach 8 percent before falling to 5 percent around the end of the year, still well outside the central bank’s 2 to 4 percent target range.
The country’s current account deficit was 6.6 percent of GDP through September, or about $14.5 billion. Cardenas has said the figure is unsustainable.
At its last meeting the central bank board raised the benchmark lending rate to 6.25 percent, the sixth consecutive monthly increase.
The financial sector led economic growth in 2015, rising 4.3 percent. The tourism and commerce sector was up 4.1 percent, while mining and manufacturing grew only 0.6 percent and 1.2 percent respectively.
During the fourth quarter agriculture grew 1.1 percent and financial services were up 1 percent, as compared with the year-earlier quarter. The transport sector contracted by 1 percent, while mining was down 0.7 percent. (Reporting by Nelson Bocanegra and Carlos Vargas,; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Helen Murphy and W Simon)