UPDATE 1-Panama economic activity accelerates in April
(Updates with construction and mining details, adds March revision)
PANAMA CITY, June 27 (Reuters) - Panama's economic activity accelerated in April despite slow traffic through its canal and ports, which helped depress growth to the lowest rate in two years in March.
Activity was 7.72 percent stronger than the same month last year, the government statistics agency said on Thursday, up from a downwardly revised rate of 4.21 percent in March.
Construction and mining helped pick up the slack in shipping, largely due to large-scale public and private infrastructure projects.
The tiny Central American country is more than halfway through a $5.25 billion expansion of its trademark canal while the $1.8 billion construction of the region's first metro line is expected to finish next year.
Construction is also under way for a mine for one of the world's largest untapped copper deposits on Panama's Atlantic Coast. The first shipments are expected in 2016. The project by Canada's First Quantum Minerals Ltd is set to be Panama's biggest exporter, with revenues similar to the canal, according to the company.
In the first quarter of 2013, Panama's $33 billion economy expanded 7 percent, cooling from a 10 percent annual growth rate in the final quarter of 2012. It was the slowest pace of growth since a 6.6 percent expansion in the second quarter of 2010.
The isthmus nation largely avoided the global recession, growing by double-digit rates for four of the past six years, much of it due to high public spending. But analysts predict growth will slow this year to between 7 percent and 8.5 percent.
Panama's canal, which transports about 5 percent of world trade, and ports have seen a dip in traffic, largely because the waterway's expansion was delayed six months until mid-2015.
Nevertheless, in May, Fitch Ratings affirmed Panama's dollar bonds at BBB, saying public and private investment and a diversified economic base probably would protect the economy against external shocks.
(Additional reporting by Elida Moreno; Editing by Krista Hughes and Jan Paschal)