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Colombia Peso Holds Near Eight-Month High on U.S. Growth Outlook

Colombia’s peso held near an eight-month high as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said there were signs of an improving U.S. growth outlook, buoying global demand for higher-yielding assets.

The peso was little changed at 1,760.75 per U.S. dollar in Bogota from 1,760.27 on March 23, after earlier gaining as much as 0.2 percent to 1,757.50. The peso reached 1,754.46 on March 16, the strongest level on an intra-day basis since July 22. It has strengthened 10 percent this year, the most among major Latin American currencies tracked by Bloomberg.

Bernanke said today that a decline in the unemployment rate in the U.S. may reflect “a reversal of the unusually large layoffs that occurred during late 2008 and over 2009,” in a speech in Arlington, Virginia. Investors speculated that the peso’s rally will continue as Colombian policy makers refrained from taking additional measures to ease the peso’s gain last week.

“It’s a mix of the strength in international markets added with no new monetary policy actions related to the currency,” said Felipe Campos, the head analyst at Alianza Valores brokerage in Bogota. “At some point the market is expecting an announcement for additional measures as the peso’s gain becomes more aggressive.”

The central bank kept the benchmark rate unchanged at 5.25 percent on March 23 and announced no new currency measures as it seeks to gauge whether nine interest-rate increases in 13 months will be enough to keep inflation in check. In a bid to ease gains in the peso, Banco de la Republica said Feb. 24 it will extend a program of daily purchases of a minimum of $20 million to at least Aug. 4.

The yield on Colombia’s 10 percent peso-denominated debt due July 2024 rose two basis points, or 0.02 percentage point, to 7.28 percent, according to the central bank.

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