(Adds comments on inflation, context, link to central bank minutes)
SANTIAGO, May 6 (Reuters) - The Chilean central bank unanimously decided to hold the benchmark interest rate at 4.0 percent last month to allow time to study the effects of previous cuts and recent inflationary ‘surprises,’ minutes of the meeting showed on Tuesday.
But board members also weighed cutting the rate by 25 basis points, the minutes showed.
The bank has reduced the key rate from 5.0 percent since October 2013, in an attempt to stimulate a cooling economy.
Investment in the top copper exporter has become sluggish and output in recent months has been anemic at best, although unemployment has stayed close to historically low levels.
Economic growth will be between 3.0 percent and 4.0 percent this year, according to central bank estimates.
However, a weakening peso has made imports more expensive and driven inflation up to a higher-than-expected 3.5 percent, near the upper end of the bank’s target 2 to 4 percent range and a key factor in its decision to break from the easing cycle on April 17.
The decision to hold the rate “without ruling out the possibility of further reductions down the line” would allow the bank to accumulate more information on the effects of previous adjustments and the “persistence of the inflationary surprises of the past few months,” said the minutes.
But the board added that the likely scenario was that “inflation being closer to 4 percent for some months would be a transitory phenomenon and towards the medium term the economic deceleration should offset the effects of the depreciation of the real exchange rate”.
For a link to the minutes in English please see: here (Reporting by Santiago newsroom; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)