UPDATE 1-Japan regional banks face further delays in merger plans
* They are under pressure from shrinking market, weak margins (Adds total amount of loans held by regional banks and quotes from officials)
BOGOTA, April 18 Colombia's central bank could feasibly cut the benchmark interest rate a half point at next week's policy meeting as the monetary authority seeks to bolster growth while inflation begins to decline, board member Adolfo Meisel said on Tuesday.
Last month the bank cut its key interest rate a quarter point - to 7 percent - for a second consecutive month in a bid to boost consumer confidence and a sluggish economy even as inflation remains higher than the bank would like.
Policymakers hope that lowering borrowing costs will help the economy pick up speed amid weak production and consumption figures in Latin America's fourth-largest economy.
The inflation rate, which at 4.69 percent is still above the bank's 2 percent-4 percent target range, has been slowing in recent months due to the bank's tightening cycle last year.
"Falling inflation and what's happening with inflation expectations would point to it being feasible," Meisel said in response to a question by reporters about a possible 50 basis points cut.
"What we have seen in recent months is good news on inflation and therefore that has helped reductions in the interest rate," he said. (Reporting by Carlos Vargas and Nelson Bocanegra; Writing by Helen Murphy; editing by Diane Craft)