* Reuters poll had forecast a 3.7 pct expansion in Nov
* Central bank expects a 4 percent yr/yr expansion in December
* Copper surge and fishing rebound drive recovery (Adds comments from central bank)
LIMA, Jan 15 (Reuters) - Peru’s economy grew a faster-than-expected 3.96 percent in November from the same month a year ago and will likely register another strong pace in December, the government and central bank said on Friday.
The official reading for November marked the first surprise on the upside since July. A Reuters poll had forecast a 3.7 percent year-on-year pace.
A 40 percent surge in copper output and a 49 percent rise in fishing activity drove November’s expansion - the second-fastest so far in 2015, state statistics agency Inei said. At a seasonally adjusted rate, the economy grew 0.23 percent in November from October.
Peru’s mining-fueled economy has been recovering slowly from a sharp slowdown thanks to a slew of new copper projects that have offset the metal’s price slump. A rebound in catches of anchovy - ground up into fishmeal for export - has boosted manufacturing and also helped growth in recent months.
Growth in December will likely come in at about 4 percent or higher as mining output and fishing rise even more, said Adrian Armas, the central bank’s chief economist. The estimate is in line with the bank’s forecast for a 2.9 percent rise in gross domestic product in all of 2015.
Preliminary data also points to a nearly 12 percent surge in the production of electricity in December, “a historic record,” said Anibal Sanchez, the head of Inei.
In November, electrical output rose 7.37 percent as manufacturing expanded 1.54 percent thanks to more fishmeal processing. The expansion broke manufacturing’s six-month slump.
The central bank’s Armas said that construction activity, which fell 6.57 percent in November, did “much better” in December as local governments invested more in public works.
A delay in public investments by towns and regions after new mayors and governors transitioned into power last year has slowed domestic demand.
The unemployment rate rose to 5.7 percent in the September-November period, Inei said.
The government has forecast 2016 growth at 4 percent, up from 2.35 percent in 2014.
The economic expansion registered so far in 2015 rose to 2.74 percent from the same 11-month period in 2014, near the government’s 2.8 percent target. The annualized growth rate climbed to 2.56 percent, Inei said.
Peru is the world’s third-largest copper producer and is on track to outpace China to become the second after the massive Las Bambas mine starts operations in the first quarter.
Reporting by Mitra Taj and Teresa Cespedes; Editing by G Crosse and Dan Grebler