November 14, 2019 / 5:09 PM / 22 days ago

UPDATE 1-Colombia's economy grew 3.3% in third quarter, meeting market expectations

(Adds details, background)

BOGOTA, Nov 14 (Reuters) - Colombia’s gross domestic product growth was 3.3% in the third quarter, the DANE statistics agency said on Thursday, as the economy continued to steadily expand despite economic turbulence elsewhere in the region.

The figure was the highest quarterly growth in the last 15 quarters, the agency said, and in line with market expectations of 3.35%.

Colombia’s growth has hovered at or around 3% during each quarter so far this year, hitting 3.2% in the first quarter and 3% in the second.

The country’s economy is expected by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to expand 3.4% this year, above the average of the group’s other members.

The predictions are in line with those from the International Monetary Fund, which has said Colombia will have some of the best growth figures in the world in 2019.

The steady figures come amid economic challenges in other Latin American countries like Argentina and Venezuela, where the IMF expects contractions, and Mexico and Brazil, whose economies are expected to grow less than 1%.

Colombia’s central bank board has held its benchmark interest rate unchanged for a year and a half in a long-running effort to boost growth despite temporary increases in inflation and the depreciation of the peso currency.

The seven-member board has kept borrowing costs steady at 4.25% since April 2018. It is expected to hold the rate until sometime next year.

Minutes from the October meeting showed some policymakers believe inflation may take longer to fall toward the bank’s 3% target than had originally been predicted, possibly motivating extended rate holds.

The bank raised its annual GDP growth estimate to 3.2% from 3% in September, but its figure is still below the government target of 3.6%.

GDP grew 0.6% in the third quarter compared to the second, DANE said.

Third quarter growth was 2.6% in 2018. (Reporting by Carlos Vargas and Julia Symmes Cobb Editing by Alistair Bell)

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