UPDATE 2-Colombia's central bank holds interest rate at 4.5 pct
(New throughout, adds analyst comment, detail)
By Helen Murphy and Nelson Bocanegra
BOGOTA, Sept 26 (Reuters) - Colombia's central bank on Friday held the benchmark interest rate steady for the first time in six months, as expected, hoping to bolster economic growth in an uncertain global economy and with domestic inflation under control.
The seven-member board voted to keep the lending rate at 4.5 percent, meeting expectations of 29 of 36 analysts in a Reuters poll. The decision to keep the rate at its highest level since October 2012 was not unanimous.
The bank statement highlighted the contrast between economies that could impact Colombia. A recovery in the United States comes as China, Europe and other Latin American nations are slowing, and trade terms could deteriorate along with a drop in international oil prices, it said.
"The uncertainty of not knowing how strong the global economy is and how it could impact Colombia is, I think, what pushed them to hold the rate," said Camilo Perez, chief economist at the Banco de Bogota.
Policymakers also decided on Friday to extend the bank's dollar purchase program through December, but reduced the level to up to $1 billion from $2 billion. It accumulates reserves to limit the impact of external shocks.
The bank began a tightening cycle in April, lifting the rate from 3.25 percent, where it had remained for 11 months. The increase was meant to stem any future inflationary pressures.
Colombia's economy expanded less than expected in the second quarter, slowing to 4.3 percent from 4.5 percent a year earlier and shrinking compared with the first three months of the year. Continuación...