* Board members see domestic demand fueling growth in Q3-Q4
* Decision to leave rate unchanged was not unanimous
BOGOTA Nov 9 Colombia's central bank on Friday
forecast 2012 economic growth in the Andean country at between
3.7 percent and 4.9 percent, and said that expansion in the last
two quarters will likely be spurred by strong domestic demand.
The bank had previously said that full-year gross domestic
product would come in between 3 percent and 5 percent.
Minutes from the bank's last policy meeting released on
Friday showed that board members are concerned about a possible
economic slowdown in the third quarter, yet are confident that
the economy is still growing strongly.
"Despite signs of a slowdown, growth in the following
quarters will continue being stimulated by domestic demand. A
healthy finance system, household confidence and a dynamic labor
market will continue underpinning consumer growth," the
seven-member board said in a statement.
The bank also said the economy continues to be supported by
the availability of internal and external financing and high
foreign direct investment.
"In 2013 we see growth similar to 2012. Of course there are
high levels of external uncertainty that have to do with how the
problems in Europe are tackled and, in the short term, the
decisions that the U.S. Congress may take about fiscal issues in
that country," central bank chief Jose Dario Uribe said in a
presentation after the minutes' release.
Colombia's central bank kept its benchmark interest rate
steady for a second-month running at 4.75 percent at its latest
meeting on Oct. 26, given a mixed picture for domestic growth
and the global economy.
The majority decision by policymakers followed a likely
slowdown in Latin America's No. 4 economy in the third quarter
due to weaker retail sales, industrial output and exports.
Most members voted to keep the benchmark interest rate
unchanged because despite signs of a slowdown, they saw overall
spending in the Andean country above potential growth.
The minutes also showed that other members proposed
borrowing costs should be cut because inflation seemed to be
under control and the Colombian economy was still vulnerable to
The bank said that inflation expectations remain near the
midpoint of its 2 percent to 4 percent target range.
The minutes showed that board members are still concerned
about global economic woes, including the growth slowdown in
China and fiscal problems in the United States.
Nonetheless, the bank noted that prices for key Colombian
commodity exports, like oil, remain strong.
"Global financial conditions have improved in the past few
weeks, in part because of the policy decisions taken by the key
central banks in the world," the minutes said.
There was also disagreement among board members in the
September meeting, where the majority of the board voted to hold
borrowing costs steady while a minority wanted to cut the rate
to protect the economy from the global slowdown.
Analysts said the tone of the bank's statement after the
October meeting suggested it would likely keep rates steady
Other major Latin American economies such as Mexico and
Chile have also held rates steady since early this year as they
gauge fallout from the euro zone debt crisis.