10 de septiembre de 2015 / 15:15 / en 2 años

UPDATE 3-Colombia posts 3 pct GDP growth, rate hike seen more likely

(Adds comment from finance minister)

BOGOTA, Sept 10 (Reuters) - Colombia’s economy grew 3 percent in the second quarter, the government said on Thursday, a year-on-year figure that analysts said could prompt the central bank to raise its benchmark interest rate to counteract inflationary pressure.

The growth figure is slightly above the 2.95 percent forecast by analysts, but well below the 4.2 pct expansion in the second quarter last year.

Latin America’s fourth-largest economy has been hit by a fall in global oil prices and is struggling with an increase in inflation.

Finance Minister Mauricio Cardenas said he expects full-year GDP to increase 3.6 percent, buoyed by slightly stronger growth in the second half.

Crude oil is Colombia’s biggest export and leading source of foreign exchange.

Twelve-month inflation reached 4.74 percent in August. The measure has been above the central bank’s 2 percent to 4 percent target range since February because of a precipitous 60 percent fall in the peso currency in the past year and rising food prices as the El Niño weather phenomenon disrupts farming.

“If internal demand is decelerating, it hasn’t been by as much as the central bank expected in order to counteract the risks of the inflation uptick,” said Angela Gonzalez, an analyst at Banco de Bogota.

“With this figure they will have to change their outlook a lot - now is the time to raise the interest rate.”

The seven-member central bank board has left the benchmark lending rate steady at 4.5 percent for 12 straight months to bolster growth while trying to keep a lid on inflation.

Gross domestic product expanded 0.6 percent in the second quarter compared with the previous three months, the DANE statistics agency said. The economy grew 2.8 pct in the first three months of 2015.

During the first half of the year, GDP accelerated 2.9 percent, compared with 5.3 percent during the same period in 2014.

The construction sector led growth, up 8.7 percent during the second quarter, while mining rose 4.2 percent. Industrial production contracted 1.3 percent.

“The rate of decline in the manufacturing sector eased, although we would need to see more than this to conclude that local manufacturers are finally benefiting from a weaker peso,” Capital Economics said in a note to investors.

The peso was trading at 3,064 pesos per U.S. dollar on Thursday. (Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb and Helen Murphy, Additional reporting by Nelson Bocanegra and Carlos Vargas; Editing by Tom Brown)

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