Polish Fourth-Quarter GDP Growth Accelerates on Investment

March 1 (Bloomberg) -- Poland’s economy accelerated in the fourth quarter as investment increased and a weaker zloty buoyed exports, suggesting output is weathering Europe’s debt crisis and backing central bank calls to hold or raise interest rates.

Gross domestic product expanded 4.3 percent from a year earlier, compared with a 4.2 percent increase in the previous three months, the Central Statistics Office in Warsaw said today. That’s above the 4.1 percent median estimate of 27 economists in a Bloomberg survey. Output grew a seasonally adjusted 1.1 percent from the previous quarter.

The European Union’s largest eastern nation was the only member of the 27-member bloc to dodge a recession in 2009. It has benefited from EU funds to improve infrastructure and modernize production, while a weaker zloty has boosted exports even as its main trading partners grapple with a debt crisis.

The data confirm “the slowdown of the Polish economy is a gradual process and considerably less marked than in western Europe,” Monika Kurtek, chief economist at Bank Pocztowy, said today by e-mail. First-quarter “economic activity will most likely not slow very much.”

Zloty Falls

The zloty fell to 4.1207 against the euro at 12:17 p.m. in Warsaw. It has advanced 8.4 percent against that currency this year, the second-best performance among currencies tracked by Bloomberg behind the Hungarian forint. It lost 11.2 percent against the euro in 2011, buoying exports, 80 percent of which are bought by the EU.

Exports grew 8 percent from a year earlier in the fourth quarter, according to the statistics office. They contributed 0.9 percentage point to growth, down from 1 percentage point in the third quarter and up from a negative 1.6 percentage point in the final three months of 2010, it said.

Individual consumption rose 2 percent from a year earlier in the October-December period, slowing from 3 percent in the previous quarter. Domestic-demand growth accelerated to 3.3 percent from 3.2 percent, while the expansion in fixed investment quickened to 10.3 percent from 8.5 percent.

‘Very Satisfied’

“I’m very satisfied with the fourth-quarter figures,” Anna Zielinska-Glebocka, a member of the central bank’s rate-setting Monetary Policy Council, told TVN CNBC today. Growth may reach “about 3 percent” this year, she said, adding that policy makers are more likely to leave interest rates unchanged or increase them, rather than lower borrowing costs.

The central bank has left its benchmark rate at 4.5 percent since June after raising it by 1 percentage point in the first half of last year. Most policy makers said rate increases can’t be ruled out if economic growth remains “relatively fast” and the inflation rate is “elevated,” according to the minutes of last month’s rate-setting meeting.

The economy expanded an estimated 4.3 percent in 2011, the statistics office said Jan. 27. It will probably grow 2.5 percent this year, the fastest pace in the EU, driven by spending on roads and railways before the Euro 2012 soccer championships, the European Commission said Feb. 23.

“Investment-spending growth is expected to remain robust, supported by accelerating private investment,” the commission said. “The corporate sector is likely to continue to increase capacity, financed by intensifying inflows of foreign capital, retained earnings and growing corporate credit.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Dorota Bartyzel in Warsaw at dbartyzel@bloomberg.net Milda Seputyte in Vilnius at mseputyte@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at bpenz@bloomberg.net