Colombia's Finmin Cardenas sees Q3 GDP close to 5 percent

BOGOTA Tue Dec 17, 2013 1:39pm EST

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BOGOTA Dec 17 (Reuters) - Colombia's economy may have grown almost 5 percent in the third quarter, Finance Minister Mauricio Cardenas said on Tuesday, a level higher than expected by the market.

A Reuters poll this week found that annual growth probably reached 4.4 percent in the three months through September. Expansion of 5 percent would bring the economy closer to the government's forecast of 4.5 percent for full 2013.

Third quarter GDP data will be released on Thursday.

"I am very optimistic," Cardenas told reporters in Bogota. "The information is still partial but in construction we expect double-digit growth, probably about 15 percent, coffee too."

"I think the data will be very good, the components that we know point to very good growth, of close to 5 percent."

The economy has been patchy this year, with the government and central bank taking measures to boost flagging output and stimulate spending.

While industrial production, retail sales and exports have been weakened much of the year on the back of a global slump, economists expect an improvement in the coming months that will spur growth.

If Cardenas is right, the central bank is more likely to hold its benchmark lending rate steady at 3.25 percent for a ninth straight month when it meets on Friday.

The minutes of the November meeting showed some of the seven-member board favored another cut if growth remained at current levels or weakened. In the second quarter growth reached 4.2 percent.

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