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By Mitra Taj
LIMA, May 15 (Reuters) - Peru’s economy grew a faster-than-expected 2.68 percent in March from a year ago thanks to a rebound in mining, the country’s strongest pace in 11 months, state statistics agency Inei said on Friday.
A Reuters poll had forecast a 2.15 percent expansion.
The economy grew 1.73 percent in the first quarter from the same period in 2014, Inei said, faster than the finance minister’s April 27 forecast for a 1.5 percent expansion.
The official reading for March came after Peru’s mining-fueled economy repeatedly missed official forecasts for a recovery during a sharp slowdown over the past year.
It could help boost business and consumer confidence that has stumbled in recent months.
The March result helped buoy the sol currency , which has been trading near a six-year low, but edged up 0.10 percent against the dollar on Friday.
However, the pace was still far from the 5.43 percent year-on-year surge registered in March 2014 and the 5 percent the central bank considers the economy’s potential growth rate.
The March growth was driven by a 14.71 percent year-on-year surge in mining, as copper and gold output rose by about 10 percent.
Peru is the world’s third biggest copper producer and the eighth largest gold producer. About 60 percent of its export earnings stem from mineral shipments, which have slipped in recent years due to low prices for metals.
Fishing surged 17.74 percent as anchovy catches recovered, and financial services rose 12.11 percent.
Construction and manufacturing contracted 7.75 percent and 4.22 percent, respectively. Hydrocarbons dropped 9.6 percent on falling natural gas and crude drilling.
It is unclear if economic activity will continue picking up to bring 2015 growth close to the government’s target of around 4 percent.
The central bank said on Friday said that April’s year-on-year economic expansion was likely “well above” the 2.68 percent reading registered in March.
Two new copper mines, Constancia and Toromocho, are expected to continue ramping up production this year, but low metal prices, strikes and anti-mining protests might hurt the sector.
Peru is also bracing for a “moderate” El Nino that could disrupt an expected recovery in industrial fishing.
Inei said it has revised fourth-quarter year-on-year growth to 1.1 percent from 1 percent. The economy grew a seasonally-adjusted 0.7 percent in March from February.
Last year, the economy grew 2.35 percent. (Reporting by Mitra Taj; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Andre Grenon)