Colombia Jan inflation lower than expected -central bank chief

CARTAGENA, Colombia Feb 6 (Reuters) - Colombia’s consumer price increases last month were lower than the central bank had expected and may help bring the annual inflation rate closer to the long-term target, the head of the bank’s board said on Thursday.

Inflation rose 0.42% in January, the government’s DANE statistics agency said on Wednesday, taking cumulative 12-month price growth to 3.62%.

“This is very good news, we had expected higher figures, more like 3.8%,” board chief Juan Jose Echavarria said during a economics conference in the coastal city of Cartagena. “It’s a change and it’s in the direction that we are betting on.”

The January figures could help the indicator fall to closer to the 3% target rate for the year, he added.

“Analysts are expecting inflation levels for 2020 of more or less 3.4% or 3.5%, much higher than what the bank’s technical team is expecting, which is 3.1% or 3% at the end of the year,” Echavarria added. (Reporting by Nelson Bocanegra Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb and David Gregorio)