(Adds comments from central bank and economist, background details)
SANTIAGO, April 7 (Reuters) - Chile’s economic activity rose 2.9 percent in February from the same month a year ago due to growth in the mining and retail sectors, the central bank said on Monday.
Still, though the IMACEC economic activity index , encompassing about 90 percent of the economy tallied in gross domestic product figures, came in above forecasts for a 2.4 percent increase, it was the lowest expansion for the month of February since Chile fell into recession in 2009.
“This data confirms our view of a decelerating economy and with this we forecast GDP growth of around 2.5 percent in the first quarter,” said Antonio Moncado, economist with Bci Estudios.
In comparison with January, economic activity increased a seasonally adjusted 0.2 pct.
February had the same number of working days as the same month a year ago, the central bank said.
Last week, the bank slashed its estimates for 2014 economic growth to a range of 3.0 percent and 4.0 percent and repeated its bias towards possible further cuts in the benchmark interest rate, against a backdrop of easing investment and falling global commodities prices.
The IMACEC data “backs the argument for further interest rate cuts in coming months,” said Moncado.
In an attempt to stimulate the economy, the bank has cut Chile’s key benchmark interest rate 100 basis points since October to 4.0 percent. (Reporting by Santiago bureau; Writing by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Bernadette Baum)