(Adds context, analyst forecast)
LIMA, Jan 14 (Reuters) - Peru’s central bank raised its benchmark interest rate to 4 percent on Thursday as expected, its second hike in a row as it battles to keep inflation expectations from rising further.
Eight of 14 economists surveyed by Reuters had predicted the 25 basis-point increase after inflation surprised on the upside for a third straight month in December and private forecasts for 2016 inflation crept higher, above its 1-3 percent target range.
The hike was the bank’s third in the past five months as the sol currency’s depreciation drove up prices in the global mining powerhouse.
The central bank said that the sol’s slide against the dollar and temporary supply factors such as food and transport costs had pushed up inflation to a four-year high of 4.4 percent at the end of 2015.
“This should not translate in a generalized way to the rest of prices in the economy,” the central bank said in a statement. It emphasized that core inflation increased only slightly in December to 3.49 percent.
Peru was the first of its regional peers, Chile and Colombia, to raise the interest rate last year amid weak economic growth.
Earlier on Thursday, Chile’s central bank held the benchmark interest rate steady at 3.50 percent but maintained its bias toward tightening in the coming months.
Peru’s central bank reiterated that it could adjust the rate again if needed and that it expects economic growth to approach its potential rate this year.
A gradual economic recovery is underway in the Andean country thanks to surging copper output from new mines.
Pedro Tuesta, a senior Latin American economist for 4Cast, said resilient domestic demand and the currency’s decline would likely force the bank to raise the interest rate at least twice more before a new president takes office in late July.
Expectations for tighter U.S. monetary policy and worries about China, a major buyer of Peru’s key mineral exports, have fueled the sol’s 15 percent drop against the dollar in the past year. The central bank has said the exchange rate caused two-thirds of the core inflation rate in 2015.
Reporting By Lima Newsroom; Editing by Alan Crosby, Bernard Orr and Diane Craft