KUALA LUMPUR Jan 31 (Reuters) - Malaysia's central bank kept its key interest rate at 3.00 percent for the tenth straight meeting on Thursday, saying that inflation remains contained.
All 18 economists polled by Reuters had expected Bank Negara to hold the overnight policy rate (OPR) at 3.00 percent, the same level it has been at since May 2011, at its first meeting of the year.
"The Monetary Policy Committee considers the current stance of monetary policy to be supportive of the economy while inflation remains contained," the central bank said in a statement.
"In the domestic economy, a broad set of indicators suggests robust expansion in the fourth quarter of 2012," it added, citing sustained domestic consumption and investment activity.
A separate Reuters quarterly poll for Asia released last week showed economists unanimously predicting that rates would remain on hold for the first six months of the year.
The earliest move is expected only in the third quarter, with three out of 12 economists predicting a 25 basis point (bps) hike.
Central banks in the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand held their benchmark policy rates steady recently, citing manageable inflation and expectations that growth will remain resilient as strong domestic demand offsets the impact of the sluggish global economy.
For the full monetary policy statement, please click on (Reporting by Anuradha Raghu; Editing by Siva Sithraputhran)