(Adds comment, detail on interest rate)
BOGOTA Aug 4 Colombia's central bank sees
healthy economic growth both this year and next with inflation
under control, bank chief Jose Dario Uribe said during a
quarterly economic presentation on Monday, citing consumer
confidence and credit levels.
The economy will likely grow between 3.5 and 6 percent in
2015, while inflation will probably end that year around 3
percent, the same level as forecast for this year.
"We want to maintain an interest rate that keeps inflation
around 3 percent and the economy growing around its potential,"
"All the information we have shows that consumption will
maintain an important pace ... equal to and even maybe superior
to the average of the last 10 or 12 years."
The economy has accelerated this year to levels that
surprised the market, expanding 6.4 percent in the first quarter
and prompting Finance Minister Mauricio Cardenas to consider
raising his growth estimate for 2014 from 4.7 percent.
The United Nations' body for Latin America and the Caribbean
(ECLAC) said on Monday it expected the region to grow 2.2
percent in 2014, below its previous forecast. Colombia was the
only economy ECLAC revised upward among Latin American nations
like Brazil, Chile, Peru, Brazil, Argentina and Mexico.
Colombia's economy is producing close to its maximum
capacity, Uribe said, narrowing a so-called negative output gap
and allowing strong growth without spiking inflation.
The bank sees the economy accelerating at 4.3 percent in the
second quarter, Uribe said.
The policymaking board lifted the benchmark lending rate by
25 basis points to 4.25 percent on Friday - the fourth straight
increase - in a bid to withdraw monetary stimulus as growth
picks up steam.
The board has indicated that a neutral rate in the current
hiking cycle is lower than in previous cycles, prompting
economists to expect the bank to halt rate increases sooner than
they have in the past.
In monetary policy terms, a neutral interest rate is one
that does not affect the economy as it occurs when growth is at
potential and inflation is on target.
Policymakers have said recent rate hikes were aimed at
reining in inflation pressures early to avoid having to make
larger remedial adjustments later on.
June inflation data, the most recent available, showed price
growth at 2.85 percent, still a little below the mid-point of
the central bank's 2 to 4 percent target range.
The government will reveal price data for July on Tuesday.
(Reporting by Helen Murphy, Peter Murphy and Nelson Bocanegra;
Editing by Nick Zieminski)