July 9, 2019 / 4:37 PM / 5 months ago

UPDATE 1-Chile cuts forecast for 2019 GDP growth to 3.2% amid mining, commerce slump

(Adds details on infrastructure plan, inflation predictions, context)

SANTIAGO, July 9 (Reuters) - Chile expects its economy to grow 3.2% in 2019, down from a previous estimate of 3.5% in April, the country’s finance minister said on Tuesday, amid slumping copper prices and a fall in global commerce.

Finance Minister Felipe Larrain told a Chilean Senate commission he expected the average copper price for 2019 to be $2.85 per pound, down sharply from a previous estimate of $3 per pound.

Copper exports from Chile, the world’s top producer of the red metal, can account for as much as 15% of the nation’s GDP.

“We all had higher hopes when the year started...but to grow at 3% would be a great accomplishment for our economy this year,” Larrain said.

Chile’s mining sector was also impacted earlier this year by unusually heavy rains in its copper-rich northern desert and a two-week strike at Codelco’s Chuquicamata copper mine, one of the world’s largest.

That prompted Chile’s Central Bank to cut its prediction for growth last month to 2.75-3.5% from a previous view of 3% to 4%.

Larrain predicted annual inflation to hit 2.2% this year, up slightly from a prediction of 2.1% in March.

The administration of center-right President Sebastian Pinera has planned nearly $1.5 billion in public spending in an effort to boost growth in the second half of 2019, Larrain said. (Reporting by Dave Sherwood; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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