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LIMA, May 15 (Reuters) - Peru’s economy grew more slowly than expected in March from the same month a year prior, expanding 4.9 percent as key mining activity fell for the first time in a year, the government statistics agency Inei said on Thursday.
The official growth figure for March came in under the 5.65 percent expansion forecast in a Reuters poll this week and weaker than the finance minister’s April estimate of more than 6 percent.
Mining activity fell 1.7 percent in March, the first monthly drop in the sector since March of 2013, official data showed.
Peru is a top global exporter of copper, gold and silver. Mining accounts for 15 percent of gross domestic product and 60 percent of exporter earnings.
The economy expanded by 4.8 percent in all of the first quarter and 5.84 percent in the 12 months through March, compared to the same periods a year earlier, Inei said.
The central bank views Peru’s potential growth rate, the pace at which economy can expand without stoking inflation, at 6 percent.
Last year the Andean country’s economy slowed to grow by 5.6 percent in 2013 as its mineral exports tumbled on weaker prices and softer demand.
Gross domestic product in all of 2014 is seen rising 5.5 percent by the central bank, and 5.7 percent by the government.
March’s expansion was led by a 5.67 percent rise in manufacturing. Construction increased by 3.06 percent, retail 5.56 percent and financial services 13.56 percent.
The economy shrank at a seasonally adjusted rate of 0.4 percent in March compared to February, Inei said. (Reporting By Patricia Velez, Writing by Mitra Taj; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)