(Adds context, details, quote)
LIMA, April 10 (Reuters) - Peru’s central bank kept its benchmark interest rate unchanged at 4 percent for the fifth month in a row on Thursday, citing expectations of dynamic economic growth and cooler inflation in coming months.
All 15 foreign and local economists polled by Reuters this week forecast the bank would again keep the rate unchanged.
The central bank reiterated on Thursday, as it has in previous months, that economic growth has been weaker than its potential but that it would perk up soon.
However, it said economic growth in the first half of 2014 will likely be slower than previously forecast.
“Indicators of productive activity and expectation surveys indicate dynamic economic activity in the first half of this year, although at a rate slower than expected,” the bank said in a statement.
The monetary authority said still-high inflation in March will continue to cool as supply factors subside.
The annual inflation rate slowed to 3.38 percent in March - above the upper limit of the central bank’s 1 to 3 percent target range.
The central bank said last week that it expects inflation of around 2.4 or 2.5 percent in all of 2014, instead of its earlier estimate of 2 percent.
In November the central bank surprised the market by lowering the interest rate by 0.25 percentage point to stimulate economic activity, its first rate cut in more than four years.
Central Bank President Julio Velarde has said that he prefers to keep loosening reserve requirements on commercial banks instead of further lowering the benchmark rate to spur growth.
Peru’s economy, which expanded at an annual average rate of around 6.5 percent over the past decade, slowed to grow at 5 percent in 2013 as global prices for the Andean country’s mineral exports weakened.
The government statistics agency has said that last year’s economic expansion would have been closer to 5.3 percent if a new method for calculating gross domestic product were used.
Data on economic activity in February will be released on Tuesday.
Peru is one of the world’s top exporters of copper, gold and silver. Its potential growth rate, the pace at which the economy can expand without stoking inflation too much, has typically been seen at between 6.0 percent and 6.5 percent.
The government and central bank have both said they expect a 6 percent expansion this year. (Reporting by Lima Newsroom; Editing by Eric Walsh)