Colombia govt has bought $500 mln in forex market finmin

Colombia's government has bought $500 million on the foreign exchange market since last week as part of an ongoing effort to weaken the strong peso, Finance Minister Juan Carlos Echeverry said on wednesday.

Investment in the Andean country's oil and mining industries has reached record levels in the past several years, bolstering the value of the peso, which has been one of the biggest gaining currencies among 152 tracked so far this year.

"We're going to be looking at how the market behaves so that we give it support in addition to the actions that the central bank is taking," Echeverry told journalists.

Colombia's government said last week that it was buying more than $300 million partly as an effort to stem gains in the country's currency against the U.S. dollar.

Echeverry said that purchases last week and this week would total $500 million.

The government has called on the central bank to step up the monetary authority's dollar purchases to $40 million a day to soften the firming peso currency, which has strengthened around 6.5 percent against the dollar so far this year.

The bank currently buys at least $20 million a day on the spot currency market.

A senior government official told Reuters last week that the government's dollar purchases would be used not just to help weaken the peso, but also to prepay its dollar debt.

Echeverry also said on wednesday that Colombia registered a consolidated budget surplus of 1.7 percent of gross domestic product in the first quarter of the year.

Two senior government sources told on tuesday that the consolidated budget surplus in the first quarter totaled 1.5 percent of Gdp.

Berny Polanía

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