UPDATE 1-Colombia central bank holds rate at 4.5 pct as GDP slows, inflation up
(Adds details on rate decision, quote)
By Julia Symmes Cobb and Nelson Bocanegra
BOGOTA, March 20 (Reuters) - Colombia's central bank voted unanimously to hold its lending rate on Friday for a seventh straight month as economic growth continued to show signs of easing while inflation picked up pace.
The seven-member central bank board, headed by Jose Dario Uribe, kept the lending rate at 4.5 percent, meeting predictions of a majority of analysts in a Reuters survey this week.
Slower-than-forecast economic expansion in the final quarter of last year and 2014 as a whole, and falling expectations for growth in 2015, were important to the board's decision, the bank's statement said.
Growth estimates for Latin America's fourth-largest economy have been curbed by shrinking oil revenue and an increase in inflation, driven in part by a truckers' strike that drove up food prices.
Oil revenue accounts for 20 percent of government income and is Colombia's largest export and source of foreign exchange.
"Because the reduction in oil prices and national income is permanent in nature, domestic spending in the economy should be adjusted," the board said. Continuación...