Colombia's central bank could raise benchmark interest rate further



BOGOTA, Oct 4 (Reuters) - Further increases to Colombia's benchmark interest rate may be necessary in the coming months as the central bank tries to bring inflation in line with its 3% target, according to minutes from the bank's meeting last week.

Colombia's central bank board raised its benchmark interest rate by 100 basis points to 10% last Thursday, as inflation pressures and domestic consumption remain robust and central banks around the world boost rates.

The country's 12-month inflation hit 10.84% in August and the market expects the figure to have risen to 11.25% in September.

As the bank tries to push inflation back towards the 3% target, these pressures could necessitate further interest rate rises this year, according to minutes from the meeting, published late on Monday.

"(The board) pointed out that additional increases to the benchmark rate could be necessary in the coming months, depending on the information available at any given time on the internal and external economic situation, and its prospects," the board said in the minutes.

Six of the board's seven members voted to hike the interest rate by 100 basis points last Thursday, with one board member voting to increase the rate by 50 basis points, which would have taken it to 9.5%.

The lone policymaker warned that the biggest risk posed by aggressive monetary policy tightening was a "profound deceleration" in production and employment, adding that additional interest rates would more greatly impact economic growth over inflation.

Inflationary pressures have not eased despite 825 basis points worth of hikes to the benchmark interest rate over the last year.

"The trend of foreign interest rate increases entail similar adjustments in domestic interest rates, on which (the board member) observed that such high interest rates imply considerable risks on the consumer portfolio, the productive sector and government financing," the minutes said.

Analysts surveyed predicted that policymakers will take the rate to 11% before the end of the year.
Reporting by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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