By Nelson Bocanegra
BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia's central bank board will once again raise its benchmark interest rate at its meeting next week on persistent inflation which has endured despite signs of slowing growth, preliminary findings in a Reuters poll showed on Friday.
Eight of 15 analysts surveyed said the seven-member board will increase borrowing costs by 100 basis points to 13%, while two expect a 75 basis points rise to 12.75% and the remaining three expect a half-point uptick to 12.50%.
In any of the three scenarios the interest rate would be the highest it has been since November 1999.
Whatever the bank's decision, it will not be unanimous, those surveyed said.
"The principal worry for the board will be the continuing increase in inflation and its estimates, also restrictions on global financial conditions which are intensifying and, under these conditions, external and fiscal imbalances represent a bigger source of vulnerability," said Laura Parra, analyst at financial firm Corficolombiana.
"Though there are signs of productive deceleration and less movement in the labor market, the balance of risks merits a higher level of monetary restriction," she added.
Latin America's fourth largest economy saw inflation of 13.12% in 2022, its highest in nearly 24 years and more than four times the central bank's long-term target rate of 3%.
A majority of analysts said the rate rise on Jan. 27 would be the last and that policymakers will then hold the rate steady before lowering it toward the end of the year.
According to median predictions in the poll, the rate will close this year at 11% and next year at 7%.
"Going forward we think the interest rate will be stable during the first half of the year, to later begin a cycle of cuts once inflation begins to subside," said David Cubides, head of economic investigation at Alianza brokerage.
(Reporting by Nelson Bocanegra; writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; editing by Jonathan Oatis)