UPDATE 1-Chile's central bank holds interest rate at 3.5 pct
(Adds details from statement, comments, context)
SANTIAGO, March 17 (Reuters) - Chile's central bank held the benchmark interest rate at 3.5 percent on Thursday, as widely expected, as it weighed weak economic data against the need to cool above-target inflation.
The bank has held the interest rate at 3.5 percent for three months, after last hiking it in December.
The economy of the world's top copper exporter has been struggling with anemic growth in the wake of a sharp fall in the metal's price, and recent data has come in weaker than central bank forecasts.
However, the bank has indicated it will consider further rate hikes to counter stubbornly high inflation, which measured 4.7 percent annually at the last print.
The bank targets an inflation range of 2 to 4 percent.
"The future path of the monetary policy rate considers measured adjustments aimed to ensure the convergence of inflation to target," the bank said, using the same wording for its bias as it has in the previous two months.
Given the weak economic performance and signs that inflation was beginning to cool, the bank would likely wind up keeping the rate on hold for the rest of the year, economists at Credicorp Capital said, noting that would depend, however, on moves by the U.S. Federal Reserve.
(Reporting by Rosalba O'Brien; Editing by Dan Grebler)
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