10 de diciembre de 2015 / 16:59 / en 2 años

UPDATE 1-Colombia 3rd-qtr GDP up 3.2 pct, leaves room for rate hike

(Adds details on sectors, inflation)

BOGOTA, Dec 10 (Reuters) - Colombia’s economy grew 3.2 percent in the third quarter from the same quarter a year ago, the government said on Thursday, a better-than-expected figure that may prompt the central bank to raise its benchmark interest rate to counteract inflationary pressures.

The growth figure came in slightly above the 2.9 percent growth forecast by the central bank, and likely leaves room for another hike in borrowing costs from the current 5.50 percent.

The economy expanded 1.2 percent from the second quarter and grew 3 percent in the accumulated nine months from January.

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

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

Finance Minister Mauricio Cardenas has said he expects full-year gross domestic product to increase by 3.3 percent, buoyed by slightly stronger growth in the second half. The central bank is slightly less optimistic, with a full-year expansion estimate of 3 percent.

Twelve-month inflation reached 6.39 percent in November. The measure has been above the high end of the central bank’s 2 percent to 4 percent target range since February due to a precipitous fall in the peso currency in the past year and rising food prices as the El Niño weather phenomenon disrupts agriculture.

The seven-member central bank board has come under pressure to alleviate the inflationary pressure on consumer prices, hiking the rate a full percentage-point over the past three months. Analysts expect another quarter-point hike next week.

The retail sector led economic growth in the third quarter, up 4.8 percent, followed by agriculture, which rose 4.5 percent. Financial services rose 4.3 percent, while the industrial sector increased 2.5 percent.

The mining sector slipped 1.1 percent during the quarter.

The peso last traded at 3,261 pesos per U.S. dollar on Thursday. (Reporting by Helen Murphy and Nelson Bocanegra; editing by G Crosse)

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