UPDATE 1-Colombia central bank hikes rate to 7.5 pct to ease inflation

miércoles 22 de junio de 2016 16:02 GYT

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BOGOTA, June 22 (Reuters) - Colombia's central bank raised the benchmark interest rate to 7.5 percent on Wednesday and left analysts uncertain whether the increase would mark the last hike after ten months of rises meant to combat stubbornly high inflation.

The seven-member board decided by majority to boost the lending rate by 25 basis points, meeting the forecast of 18 out of 20 analysts in a Reuters survey last week.

Analysts said the increase could be the last in the cycle, which has raised borrowing costs by 300 basis points, but that there may still be board members in favor of further hikes.

The policymakers' statement on the decision left the door open to more rises in borrowing costs, said Felipe Campos, head economist at Alianza brokerage.

"The bank is saving its flexibility card in case inflation in the coming months obliges them to raise the rate."

Twelve-month inflation was 8.20 percent through May, more than double the central bank's long-term 2 percent to 4 percent target range. Analysts polled by Reuters expect inflation will finish this year at 6.20 percent.

Others thought it was likely Wednesday's rise would be the last.

"The statement gave away little in terms of the next steps for interest rates but we suspect that this will be the last hike in the cycle," Capital Economics said in a note to investors.   Continuación...