(Adds finance minister’s comments, rate-hike projection from Goldman Sachs note)
By Anthony Esposito
SANTIAGO, April 6 (Reuters) - Chile’s economic growth continued to show signs of recovery from a five-year low in 2014, while some of the central bank’s board members pointed out on Monday that stubbornly high inflation was taking longer than initially anticipated to cool.
With growth picking up pace and annual inflation staying above the central bank’s 2 percent to 4 percent tolerance range since April 2014, the bank will likely be dissuaded from resuming monetary easing in 2015.
Central bank data showed that economic activity in the top copper producer grew 2.0 percent in February from the same month a year ago, on “higher added value in retail and services,” which partially offset a drop in mining activity.
In comparison with January, economic activity decreased a seasonally adjusted 0.6 percent.
The IMACEC economic activity index, encompassing about 90 percent of the economy tallied in gross domestic product figures, was in line with forecasts.
“The data confirms that the Chilean economy is going to grow around 3 percent (this year),” Finance Minister Alberto Arenas said.
Last week, the central bank kept its full-year 2015 growth forecast for Chile unchanged at a range of 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent, and said there should be a more evident recovery towards the end of the year.
But the economic recovery means “there’s no more room for rate cuts, especially considering that inflation is still pressuring,” said Diego Colman, analyst with 4Cast.
Some of the bank’s board members observed that inflation was taking longer than expected to converge towards the center of the targeted range, according to minutes of the bank’s March 19 monetary policy meeting.
The bank held the key interest rate steady at 3.0 percent for a fifth consecutive time at that meeting.
“We project the next move will be a hike rather than a cut, most likely early in 2016, but possibly late in 2015, depending on the evolution of the domestic economy and the outlook for inflation,” Goldman Sachs said in a note to clients. (Additional reporting by Felipe Iturrieta and Antonio de la Jara; Editing by Bernadette Baum)