Colombia central bank should lower rate, as inflation near goal: finance minister

BOGOTA (Reuters) – Colombia’s central bank board should lower the benchmark interest rate, Mauricio Cardenas, the country’s finance minister and a bank board member, said on Friday, after March inflation data showed the indicator is falling toward the bank’s target.

Inflation rose 0.24 percent in March, taking 12-month price growth to 3.14 percent. The central bank’s long-term target range is 2 to 4 percent, with 3 percent as the ideal level.

In March the seven-member board voted to hold borrowing costs at 4.5 percent amid concern about how quickly inflation was moving toward the target and despite sluggish growth.

“It’s totally under control, very close to the target,” Cardenas told journalists. “The figures are so positive that those who had some skepticism or worry, this should have cleared that up. A small additional reduction to the rate, that always helps consumption.

“Hopefully the central bank board can lower the interest rate in April, we don’t lack much but this would be the last effort (in the current policy cycle),” he said.

Cardenas’ call is in line with analysts’ expectations in a Reuters survey last month that the bank would cut the rate by 25 basis points at its April 27 meeting.

Board member Adolfo Meisel, however, said that even if inflation is approaching the ideal level, there will be other factors to the April decision.

“It contributes (to a cut), but it will have to be weighed in the conjunction of factors,” he told journalists, without elaborating.

The bank said in a report this week that food prices may rise in the second half of the year, requiring prudent monetary policy to meet the inflation target.

(Reporting by Carlos Vargas and Nelson Bocanegra; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Leslie Adler)

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