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Coronavirus outbreak triggers extraordinary rate cut in Paraguay

Paraguay's central bank held its March monetary policy meeting earlier than scheduled and decided to lower its benchmark interest rate by 25 basis points to 3.75%.

The move is part of a series of measures aimed at dealing with the impact of the new coronavirus outbreak, Paraguayan President Mario Abdo and central bank chief José Cantero said at a conference.

The central bank "has been monitoring the risks arising from COVID-19 (coronavirus), which have recently been accentuated by adverse effects on expectations, international financial markets and commodity prices," Banco Central del Paraguay said in a statement.

Abdo said his government will reduce reserve requirements to help the financial sector refinance debts. He also announced some tax relief measures as well as $150 million of credit lines in state banks and loans from multilateral agencies, Reuters reported. The country has seen six confirmed cases of the new coronavirus so far.

The government is maintaining its 2020 economic growth projection at about 4% for now, but the forecast should change in April, Cantero said.

The rate cut marks the central bank's first reduction of 2020. It last reduced borrowing costs by 25 basis points to 4.00% in September 2019.