BOGOTA, April 5 Colombia's central bank expects
economic growth to slow in the first quarter compared with the
last few months of 2012, according to minutes of its last
meeting published on Friday.
Policymakers cut the benchmark interest rate by a
larger-than-expected half point in late March to revitalize the
country's sluggish economy and prevent low inflation falling
The economy grew 4 percent in full-year 2012, down from 6.6
percent in 2011. The government wants to foster economic growth
this year to reach 4.8 percent.
"With respect to the economic situation for the first
quarter of 2013, the information available points to the growth
of the economy being lower than what was seen at the end of
2012," the minutes said.
The economy expanded 3.1 percent in the fourth quarter.
The unanimous decision by the bank's seven-member board took
the benchmark interest rate to 3.25 percent, the lowest in Latin
America. The surprise half-point reduction -- after four
consecutive quarter-point cuts -- aimed to bolster growth after
the economy was hit by lower overseas demand and anemic factory
With consumer price increases having decelerated in recent
months, the cut was also aimed at bringing inflation to about 3
Low inflation is a concern for policymakers, as it may prompt
consumers to hold off on purchases on expectations goods will
become even cheaper, causing the economy to stall further.
(Reporting by Eduardo Garcia; Editing by Leslie Adler)