Irish GDP Fell 1.1% in First Quarter After Expansion, RTE Says

Ireland’s economy contracted in the first quarter as exports and consumer spending declined, Dublin- based broadcaster RTE reported.

Gross domestic product fell 1.1 percent from the fourth quarter, when it rose 0.7 percent, RTE said on its website today, citing figures by the Cork-based Central Statistics Office. This put economic growth for 2011 at 1.4 percent, it said, instead of a previously estimated 0.7 percent. The statistics office, which is scheduled to release GDP data tomorrow at 11 a.m., had previously reported an economic contraction of 0.2 percent for the fourth quarter.

First-quarter data were “inadvertently published on our website for a 15-minute period” this afternoon, the CSO said in a statement on its website. “Notwithstanding this, CSO has decided to adhere to its pre-determined release time.”

A call to the CSO press division wasn’t answered. It wasn’t possible to leave a voice mail.

Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan forecast in April the economy would expand 0.7 percent this year after it returned to growth on a full-year basis for the first time in four years in 2011. Still, with cooling global growth eroding export demand and Irish unemployment at the highest in almost two decades, the economy may struggle to return to growth.

Economists forecast the economy to shrink 0.4 percent in the first quarter, according to the median of eight estimates in a Bloomberg News survey.

The GDP data will show a drop in net exports and personal consumption, according to RTE. Government spending and capital investment were up on a seasonally-adjusted basis. it said.

“First quarter data will most likely show the economy falling again, and that the government’s forecast is out of reach,” said Michael Saunders, an economist at Citigroup Inc. in London, who estimates the economy may have shrunk by 0.7 percent in the first quarter. “It is not because of any failings of the Irish government but the weakness of the euro area economy and the U.K. economy.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Joe Brennan in Dublin at jbrennan29@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Edward Evans at eevans3@bloomberg.net

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