August 29, 2016 / 5:52 PM / 2 years ago

UPDATE 2-Colombia growth at 7-yr low; chance of tightening cycle halt

(Adds downward revision of 2016 growth figure and comment from finance minister)

BOGOTA, Aug 29 (Reuters) - Colombia’s economic growth fell to its lowest rate in seven years during the second quarter as oil revenues and utilities consumption slid, raising chances the central bank could end a nearly year-long tightening cycle.

The Andean nation’s gross domestic product grew a smaller-than-expected 2 percent in the second quarter compared with a year earlier, the statistics agency DANE said on Monday. In the first quarter, the annual rate of expansion was 2.5 percent.

GDP grew 0.2 percent in the second quarter from the first three months of the year.

Finance Minister Mauricio Cardenas revised the government’s growth forecast for this year to 2.5 percent from 3 percent, blaming a truckers strike, low oil prices, drought and economic woes in neighbors Venezuela and Ecuador.

“It’s worse than we were expecting,” Cardenas said in a YouTube video. “Bad news in the second quarter.”

Still, the new GDP forecast is “realistic and reflects current adverse economic conditions,” he said.

Some economists said the GDP data could prompt the central bank to hold its benchmark interest rate steady at Wednesday’s policy meeting. A survey of analysts published last week forecast growth of 2.2 percent.

Despite slowing growth, policymakers have raised rates 11 times since September to ease inflation running at over two times the bank’s 2 percent to 4 percent target range. Last month the annual inflation rate was 8.97 percent.

“The economy continues at a rate of deceleration, but at an acceptable rate, we are not entering an economic crisis but a manageable path of moderation,” said Camilo Perez, economist at Banco de Bogota.

“While the data is a little lower than expected by the central bank, it’s not data that will make it immediately change course.”

The bank had expected quarterly growth of 2.5 percent.

The end of a truckers strike last month, and signs the drought is easing, should bring down food prices which put considerable pressure on inflation.

Colombia’s economy, mostly driven by oil and mining, has been hurt by lower global crude and coal prices over the last year or so, pressuring employment numbers and forcing the government to seek additional sources of revenue.

Annual growth in the second quarter came mostly from expansion of the manufacturing sector, up 6 percent, followed by a 4.6 percent rise in financial services. Commerce and construction grew 1.4 percent and 1 percent, respectively.

Mining, which includes petroleum production, fell 7.1 percent. Electricity, gas and water utility services slipped 0.8 percent and agriculture dipped 0.1 percent. (Reporting by Helen Murphy, Luis Jaime Acosta, Nelson Bocanegra and Carlos Vargas; Editing by W Simon and Andrew Hay)

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