* Economic activity rose 3.8 pct in Feb from year ago
* It fell in monthly terms for 2nd time in a row
* Growth seen picking up speed in coming months
SANTIAGO, April 5 Chile's economic activity
expanded 3.8 percent in February from the same month a year ago,
it slowest pace in nearly a year and a half, constrained by
fewer working days, the central bank said on Friday.
The IMACEC indicator of economic activity,
considered a proxy for economic growth, also slipped 0.1 percent
in February from January, after falling a downwardly revised 0.2
percent in January from December.
Despite the lull, economic activity is expected to pick up
speed in coming months, though strikes at many of Chile's ports
could weigh on economic activity, Finance Minister Felipe
Larrain told reporters after the IMACEC data was published.
"I'd certainly expect a rebound, but we see an effect that
goes against that ... for Chile to keep growing and creating
jobs we need to have our ports open," Larrain said.
The widespread port strikes in export-dependent Chile are
taking a growing toll on copper, fruit and wood pulp shipments
in the world's leading red metal producer and leading to
millions in lost revenue.
The IMACEC's growth from a year earlier fell short of the
expected 4.9 percent rise in February, according to the median
estimate of 16 analysts and economists polled by
"The result was affected by the fewer days registered in the
month, compared with February last year, which was a leap year,"
the bank said, adding that the mining and services sectors
helped lift economic activity.
"The market underestimated the leap year effect, but going
forward we're going to have stronger IMACEC figures. In March we
see growth closer to 5 percent on the year," said Cesar Guzman,
economist with Inversiones Security in Santiago.
"Despite today's data, Chile's economy is growing strongly
and that dynamic will continue," Guzman added.
Earlier this week, Chile's central bank cut its 2013
inflation forecast on Tuesday but hiked its projection for
growth in gross domestic product to a range of 4.5 percent to
5.5 percent, citing the robust expansion of domestic demand as a
risk to the nation's economy.
Chile's economy grew 5.6 percent in 2012.
The central bank calculates its month-on-month IMACEC data
in seasonally adjusted terms. A monthly gauge, the IMACEC
measures more than 90 percent of the components comprising
Chile's gross domestic product, which is published quarterly.