Colombia Growth Slows to 2-Year Low Amid Manufacturing Slump

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Colombia’s economy grew at the slowest pace in two years in the first quarter as manufacturing and mining output contracted.

Gross domestic product expanded 2.8 percent from a year earlier, compared with 3.5 percent in the fourth quarter, the national statistics agency said Friday. The median forecast of 22 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg was for growth of 2.6 percent. The economy grew 0.8 percent from the previous quarter.

Colombia’s growth rate exceeded Peru’s and Chile’s in the first three months of the year, while the Brazilian economy contracted. Colombia will remain one of the fastest-growing economies in the region this year, even as expansion slows in response to new “external conditions,” central bank co-director Ana Fernanda Maiguashca said Thursday. The bank last month cut its forecast for 2015 growth to about 3.2 percent from

3.6 percent.

“What we are seeing is an economy that, thanks to mainly domestic factors, is able to withstand the assault of falling oil prices,” said Munir Jalil, chief economist at Citigroup Inc.’s Colombia unit

Manufacturing output contracted 2.1 percent from a year earlier, while mining production fell 0.1 percent. The strongest performing sectors were retail, restaurants and hotels, and construction.

Infrastructure Projects

Finance Minister Mauricio Cardenas has repeatedly said that home-building and highway construction can provide new sources of growth to help offset the slowdown in the oil and mining industries that had led growth in recent years. Cardenas has said agricultural and manufacturing exports will receive a boost from a weaker currency.

The peso has weakened 26 percent against the dollar in the past 12 months, the most in emerging markets after the Russian rubble and the Brazilian real. Inflation slowed to 4.41 percent in May, from a six-year high of 4.64 percent in April.

Peru’s economy will grow 3.5 percent this year, according to analysts surveyed by Bloomberg, while Chile expands 2.8 percent, Mexico 2.7 percent and Brazil contracts 1.2 percent.

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