UPDATE 2-Colombia keeps benchmark rate at 4.5 pct as oil worries mount

viernes 28 de noviembre de 2014 15:30 GYT

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By Julia Symmes Cobb

BOGOTA Nov 28 (Reuters) - Colombia's central bank held its benchmark interest rate steady on Friday as inflation remains on target and policymakers grapple with the economic impact of a drop in global oil prices.

Bancolombia's seven-member board voted unanimously to keep the lending rate at 4.5 percent for a third consecutive month, meeting the forecast of 15 out of 16 analysts in a Reuters survey this week.

The bank also set a 2015 inflation target range of 2 percent to 4 percent, with 3 percent as the ideal level.

"International oil prices fell again and remain below the estimates of the technical team," the board said in a statement.

Oil is the biggest source of foreign exchange for Colombia, the fourth-largest oil producer in Latin America, and the big drop in crude prices over the past five months has hurt the country's trade balance. That "translates to a deterioration in national income," the board said.

Bancolombia increased its benchmark rate 125 basis points between April and August after unexpectedly quick first-quarter growth raised questions about inflationary pressure. Last month the board also voted unanimously to hold borrowing costs.

The global scenario remains uncertain, policymakers said, as China, Europe and other Latin American nations continue to experience low growth, while the United States starts to expand.   Continuación...