Colmobia May Buy More Dollars to Weaken Peso, Uribe Says

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said he wants the central bank to be “more creative” in its efforts to limit peso gains. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

March 18 (Bloomberg) -- Colombia’s central bank may step up dollar purchases as the South American country seeks to bolster its drive to weaken the peso, bank Governor Jose Dario Uribe said.

An increase in purchases from the current $40 million a day is a “possibility” Uribe said in a March 16 interview in Panama City, where he attended the Inter-American Development Bank’s annual meeting. The bank will buy close to $3.5 billion of greenbacks from Jan. 1 through May 31, after buying more than $4.8 billion last year, he said.

The peso has fallen 2.2 percent this year though March 15 as Colombia bought dollars and cut overseas debt sales after the strength of the peso, which has gained more than any other major Latin American currency since 2009, made coffee, flower and banana exports less competitive. President Juan Manuel Santos said March 14 he wants the central bank to be “more creative” in its efforts to limit peso gains.

“For the Colombian economy it would good and appropriate if the peso was a bit weaker,” Uribe said. Asked about increasing the scale of purchases, he said “it’s a possibility. For now, the decision is to keep accumulating” an annual average of about $40 million daily.

The peso slid 0.2 percent at 11:59 a.m. in Bogota. The currency has gained 13 percent since 2009, the steepest rise among the six most-traded Latin American currencies.

Oil Fund

Finance Minister Mauricio Cardenas has said that the government will purchase $1 billion to service debt in addition to the $1 billion it will purchase for its oil-stability fund.

Colombia will continue to build foreign reserves, which have grown to a record $39 billion, to reflect its larger current account and to protect the economy from a global slowdown, the 54-year-old Uribe said.

Policy makers on Feb. 22 reduced the benchmark lending rate a quarter point to 3.75 percent, the sixth cut in eight months, as the economy grows slower than its potential.

February’s annual inflation of 1.83 percent was the slowest in six decades. Inflation will accelerate while remaining below 3 percent this year, the mid-point of the central bank’s target range, Uribe said.

Yields on Colombia’s benchmark peso bonds due 2024 have fallen 0.98 percentage points in the past three months to 4.92 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Growth will probably be close to 4 percent this year and should be faster in 2014, Uribe said.

To contact the reporter on this story: John Quigley in Lima at jquigley8@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andre Soliani at asoliani@bloomberg.net