* Keeps key interest rate on hold at 0.75 pct as expected
* No substantial change in outlook
* Economist: sees next hike in March 2019 (Adds economist, detail)
By Camilla Knudsen
OSLO, Oct 25 (Reuters) - Norway’s central bank kept interest rates on hold at 0.75 percent on Thursday, as expected, and repeated an outlook for gradual hikes from the first quarter next year amid faster economic growth and higher inflation.
Norges Bank hiked rates for the first time in seven years in September and said rates would most likely rise further in the first quarter next year.
“Economic growth has been a little lower and inflation somewhat higher than projected, but the outlook and the balance of risks do not appear to have changed substantially since the September report,” the bank said in a statement.
Economic developments in Norway’s trading partners have also been broadly as projected, the bank said, while adding there was still uncertainty surrounding “the impact of higher trade barriers on the global economy”.
DNB Markets economist Kyrre Aamdal said: “This was just as expected and supports the outlook for a rate hike in the first quarter next year, most likely in March.”
Norway’s currency, the crown, strengthened slightly after the announcement, trading at 9.5005 against the euro at 0833 GMT from 9.5191 earlier.
The bank’s decision was unanimous and as expected by economists polled by Reuters.
On Wednesday, the Swedish central bank kept rates on hold and reiterated plans for a hike in either December or February. (Editing by Terje Solsvik and Robin Pomeroy)