UPDATE 1-Peru's central bank surprises by holding key rate steady
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LIMA Aug 7 (Reuters) - Peru's central bank on Thursday held the benchmark interest rate steady at 3.75 percent but said it will soon loosen reserve rules, despite expectations it would opt for a second straight monthly rate reduction to counter sluggish economic growth.
Eight of 13 economists polled by Reuters this week said they thought the bank would lower the key rate to 3.50 percent this month, after a second quarter that likely marked the weakest economic expansion in five years.
In its statement, the bank noted stubbornly high inflation this year and recent signs that the U.S. economy is recovering.
"Supply factors that elevated inflation are moderating at a slower rate than expected," the bank said in a statement.
The annual inflation rate eased slightly to 3.33 percent in July - remaining just above the ceiling of the central bank's 1-3 percent target range, as it has all year.
Earlier on Thursday, Central Bank President Julio Velarde said annual inflation would likely cool to under or around 3 percent in August, and that economic growth probably started to accelerate after June.
He said that June's year-on-year expansion was probably "very, very bad." The official growth rate in June is scheduled for release on Aug. 15.
"We're seeing that the lowest point for economic activity has apparently been June," Velarde told reporters on the sidelines of an event. "We expect the third quarter to be better than the second quarter." Continuación...