UPDATE 2-Colombia central bank hikes rate 25 bps to stem inflation, current account woes

viernes 18 de marzo de 2016 18:58 GYT

(Adds IMF growth projection)

By Julia Symmes Cobb

BOGOTA, March 18 (Reuters) - Colombia's central bank raised its benchmark lending rate on Friday to 6.50 percent, the seventh consecutive monthly increase, as policymakers grapple with high inflation figures and a deep current account deficit.

The seven-member board decided by majority to boost the lending rate by 25 basis points, meeting the forecast of all analysts in a Reuters survey last week.

Inflation has spiked amid a depreciation in the peso currency and high food prices caused by drought, while the current account deficit grew last year to 6.4 percent of gross domestic product.

Meanwhile, national income has been battered by the global fall in prices for crude oil, the country's most lucrative export and biggest source of foreign exchange.

Inflation reached 7.59 percent in the 12 months through February, and currency and consumer price pressures may mean it will be slow to fall to the bank's long-term 2 percent to 4 percent target range, the board said in a statement.

"Large increases in food prices and the partial transference of the depreciation to internal prices continue to exert pressure on inflation," bank chief Jose Dario Uribe told journalists.

Analysts expect inflation to reach 8 percent before decreasing later in the year.   Continuación...