(Adds Santos quote, JP Morgan comment on interest rate)
BOGOTA, Sept 1 (Reuters) - Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos called on Monday for the central bank to pause after five quarter-point interest rate increases in as many months, which have taken the benchmark rate to 4.5 percent.
Growth in Colombia’s economy has accelerated this year, with a GDP expansion target of 4.7 percent. But inflation has been well within the central bank’s 2 percent to 4 percent target range and is expected to end the year around 3 percent.
“I would think there is no more room to raise it more. That could affect economic growth and in that line of thinking, I am calling on the Bank of the Republic to maintain this 4.5 percent and not continue raising it. We need the economy to grow with the indicators that we have today,” Santos said.
He said the bank’s economic researchers believed the current interest rate was an appropriate one for current conditions in the country, whose economy relies heavily on exports of coal, oil and coffee.
Colombia’s central bank has full autonomy to decide on monetary policy and it is unusual for the country’s president to make such a direct comment on how it should act. The government is represented on the bank’s seven-member policy-making board by the finance minister, Mauricio Cardenas.
In a bulletin published on Monday, investment bank J.P. Morgan said the language in the central bank’s statement following its most recent rate-setting meeting last Friday indicated the bank was already inclined to hold rates steady.
“Compared to last month’s communique, the August statement was more concise and concluded by strongly suggesting a pause,” it said. (Reporting by Monica Garcia; Writing by Peter Murphy; Editing by Dan Grebler)