May 20, 2019 / 2:22 PM / a month ago

UPDATE 1-Chile GDP grows 1.6 pct in first quarter amid mining slump

(Adds context for slow growth, market expectations)

SANTIAGO, May 20 (Reuters) - Chile’s gross domestic product grew 1.6 percent in the first-quarter of 2019 compared with a year earlier, the central bank said on Monday, amid a slowdown in the top copper producer’s critical mining sector.

Mining activity dropped 3.6 percent in the first three months of the year versus the same period in 2018, the bank said, dragged down by falling prices, declining ore grades and heavy rains in Chile’s northern desert.

The weak growth was largely anticipated by the market. A poll of analysts in early May predicted bank policymakers would hold off hiking the benchmark interest rate amid subdued economic activity and sluggish inflation.

The poll saw second-quarter growth at 2.8 percent.

Reporting by Dave Sherwood Editing by Susan Thomas

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