UPDATE 2-Colombia economy grew 12.6% in second quarter, beating expectations

(Adds finance minister quote)

BOGOTA, Aug 16 (Reuters) - Colombia’s economy grew 12.6% in the second quarter, the government statistics agency said on Tuesday, exceeding market expectations of 11.25%.

Analysts in a Reuters poll last week said the Andean country’s gross domestic product (GDP) would expand led by domestic consumption, recovering employment levels and reactivation of industry.

The figure also beat the central bank’s prediction of 11.5% expansion in the second quarter.

“This puts us on a growth path that we have been seeing since the second quarter of 2021,” said Julieth Solano, interim sub-director of government statistics agency DANE. “Quarter-on-quarter we’ve had better growth.”

Growth between April and June was driven by the entertainment and recreation sector, which expanded 36.5%, retail, which grew 23.3%, and manufacturing, which expanded 20.3%.

The mining sector registered 0% growth, while the agriculture and real estate sectors expended just 1% and 1.9% respectively.

DANE revised its economic expansion for both April and May upward, to 12.2% and 17.2% respectively. In June, the economy grew by 8.5%.

In the first six months of this year, expansion was 10.6%.

Finance Minister Jose Antonio Ocampo hailed the result and told journalists he could not rule out annual growth of up to 7% this year. The government’s official target is 6.5%.

The economy grew 18.3% in the second quarter of 2021, as it bounced back from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Colombia’s economy grew 1.5% in the second quarter compared with the first, the agency said.

New President Gustavo Petro has promised to bolster agriculture, renewable energy and tourism in a bid to move the Andean country away from oil and mining.

His 10-day-old government has proposed a tax reform that could eventually add some $11.5 billion annually to government coffers to fund social programs.

The country’s central bank last month raised its growth projection for this year to 6.9%, though it has lowered its 2023 outlook to 1.1%.

The bank’s board has raised the benchmark interest rate to 9% - its highest level since February 2009 - in continued efforts to respond to a two-decade high in inflation.

Twelve-month price growth was 10.21% in July.

Reporting by Carlos Vargas and Nelson Bocanegra; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Mark Porter, Lisa Shumaker and Alex Richardson