November 2, 2010 / 3:30 PM / 9 years ago

UPDATE 1-Colombia peso falls after government measures

* $1.5 bln kept abroad includes Ecopetrol dividends

* Peso falls on govt measures, but less than expected (Adds analysts’, finance minister comments, details)

BOGOTA, Nov 2 (Reuters) - Colombia's peso COP=RR fell slightly on Tuesday following a package of government measures last week to help control the country's rising currency that analysts saw as conservative.

Emerging market countries have complained that loose monetary policy in slow-growing advanced economies like the United States have caused a surge of investor money into their economies, boosting currencies and asset prices.

“We are all under attack by the relaxed monetary policy of the United States. The QE (quantitative easing) will be on our shores for a while and therefore everyone in the region and worldwide is taking measures to counter the effects,” Finance Minister Juan Carlos Echeverry said on an investor conference call on Tuesday.

The government said Friday its actions included holding off on bringing in greenbacks from abroad and possibly buying dollars in forwards markets. For details, see [ID:nN29291838]

The peso fell 0.21 percent to 1,844 versus the U.S. dollar on Tuesday from Friday’s close of 1,840. Monday was a market holiday.

“In spite of market fears ... these measures come short of more aggressive measures (quasi-capital controls) and remain on the conservative side of intervention strategies,” RBS Securities said in a note.

Colombia, Latin America’s No. 4 oil producer, has seen its currency strengthen about 10 percent so far this year. The domestic unit has been on a firming trend due to inflows into its mining and energy sectors, dollar sales to finance government spending and a recovery from the global financial crisis.

The finance ministry said the $1.5 billion kept abroad included $1.4 billion in two dividend payments from Ecopetrol that Bogota had previously announced.

The government also said it would hedge up to $3.7 billion in debt service payments in the forwards market during 2011 if conditions were acceptable. It also said it would use a window of 30 days to one year for that hedging.

In Latin America, high commodity prices and strong growth have attracted investors, and some nations, such as Brazil and Peru, have also moved to curb their currencies.

Globally, G20 finance ministers have agreed to shun competitive currency devaluations, but stopped short of setting targets to reduce trade imbalances. [ID:nTOE69M004]

“Of all these measures, we think the one with the greatest potential of moving the market was the possibility of (the hedging) in the forward market,” Barclays Capital said.

“In reality, the need to hedge currency exposure for the government is nil ... Admittedly, the government reserves itself degrees of freedom to further lower the planned dollar inflow. However, we deem it unlikely for it to generate a meaningful negative outflow to hedge against.” (Reporting by Jack Kimball; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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