(Adds context on inflation, growth)
LIMA, July 9 (Reuters) - Peru’s central bank said Thursday that it was watching inflation and would change its monetary policy stance if needed amid expectations of a higher annual rate - marking a shift toward a less expansive posture.
“The board is attentive to the projection of inflation and its determinants to consider, if necessary, changes in the monetary policy stance,” the bank said in a statement after it held the benchmark interest rate for the sixth month in a row.
All 15 economists polled by Reuters had expected the central bank to leave the key rate unchanged at 3.25 percent amid weak growth and a depreciating currency that has squeezed consumer prices.
The central bank’s remarks were the first in at least a year to note that “inflationary expectations have risen,” though it added that they remained within its 1 to 3 percent target range.
In previous consecutive statements the bank said “inflationary expectations remain anchored in the target range.”
The annual inflation rate rose to 3.54 percent in June, above the central bank’s 3 percent target ceiling for the fourth month in a row.
Local fuel shortages and a port strike added to currency pressures on prices in recent months.
The sol currency’s expected ongoing slide and unusual weather because of El Nino could further stoke price hikes in the months ahead.
However, Peru’s central bank president has noted that prices have risen because of supply factors and said the annual inflation rate should ease to 3 percent by the end of the year.
The central bank reiterated in its statement that economic growth remains under its potential.
Peru posted its fastest monthly expansion in April but the finance minister said growth likely slowed again in May.
In the 12 months through April the economy expanded by 1.74 percent from the same period a year earlier.
Annual rates topped 6 percent in most of the previous decade. (Reporting by Lima Newsroom; Editing by Lisa Shumaker, Bernard Orr)