(Adds details about copper prices, inflation target, quote from CenBank President)
By Antonio De la Jara
SANTIAGO, Dec 4 (Reuters) - Chile’s central bank held its 2018 economic growth forecast of 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent on Monday, while revising downward slightly its forecast for inflation and leaving open the possibility for lowering interest rates.
In its end-of-year IPoM economic report, the bank also predicted 2017 gross domestic product growth at 1.4 percent, its lowest level since a 2009 recession. Inflation this year would close at 2.1 percent but is predicted to rise to 2.9 percent in 2018, the bank said in the report.
Central Bank President Mario Marcel said in a presentation to Chile’s Senate that convergence of inflation toward the bank’s target of 3.0 percent could be slower than anticipated amid gradual economic expansion as the mining industry in the world’s top copper producer’s begins to revive.
“These projections for the coming year are based on a favorable external scenario, the end of the housing and mining investment downturns, the absence of relevant macroeconomic imbalances, and a clearly expansionist monetary policy,” Marcel said.
The bank predicted copper prices would reach an average of $2.95 per pound in 2018, up from its prediction of $2.80 per pound this year.
The anticipated increase in copper prices would boost the country’s exports of the red metal by 9.6 percent from 2017, reaching $76.4 billion in 2018, the bank said. (Reporting by Antonio De la Jara; Writing by Dave Sherwood; Editing by Bill Trott)