(Adds context, folds in statements on inflation and China)
LIMA, March 19 (Reuters) - Peru’s economy in February and March will “definitely” grow at a faster pace than January’s 4.23 percent year-on-year expansion, central bank President Julio Velarde said on Wednesday.
The monetary authority was surprised at January’s growth rate, Velarde said, adding that productivity was hit by a dip in output from a large mine. He did not specify which mine.
The central bank still expects growth of around 6 percent this year. “If it doesn’t grow 6 percent it will likely grow by 5.9 percent,” Velarde said.
Tepid economic activity in China, the biggest buyer of Peruvian metals, could bring down that forecast, Velarde said.
The economy grew 5.02 percent in 2013, Peru’s weakest expansion since the global financial crisis as mineral exports slipped.
The International Monetary Fund said on Wednesday that it is holding its 2014 growth forecast for Peru at 5.5 percent.
Velarde said consumer prices in Peru will likely rise by 0.45 percent or less in March, up to half the rate posted in the same month last year.
Last month consumer prices spiked 0.60 percent, nearly double what the central bank had forecast in mid-February. That pushed the annual inflation rate to 3.78 percent - above the upper limit of the central bank’s target range.
The central bank has said that it expects inflation to rise at the start of the year before cooling toward its goal of 2 percent later on.
In November the central bank lowered the benchmark interest rate to 4 percent, its first rate cut in more than four years.
Reporting by Teresa Cespedes; Writing by Mitra Taj; Editing by Leslie Adler