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Portuguese Economy Grew at Faster Pace in Fourth Quarter

Portugal’s gross domestic product expanded at a faster pace in the three months through December as it grew for a third quarter.

GDP climbed 0.5 percent from the third quarter, when it rose a revised 0.3 percent, the Lisbon-based National Statistics Institute said on its website today. Economists predicted a rise of 0.1 percent, the median of seven estimates in a Bloomberg survey showed. GDP rose 1.6 percent from a year earlier, the first increase in three years, “reflecting mostly the performance of private consumption,” the institute said.

For the year of 2013, GDP fell 1.4 percent after shrinking 3.2 percent in 2012. The government had forecast a contraction of 1.8 percent for 2013.

Portugal emerged from its longest recession in at least 25 years in the second quarter and Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho is trying to regain full access to debt markets with the end of the country’s 78 billion-euro ($107 billion) bailout approaching in May. Coelho still has to trim spending by 3.2 billion euros in 2014 to meet targets in the European Union-led aid plan after relying mostly on tax increases in 2013.

The economy may grow more than 1 percent in 2014, Economy Minister Antonio Pires de Lima said in an interview on Jan. 21. That’s faster than a forecast announced by the government in October for growth of 0.8 percent in 2014.

Portugal’s jobless rate dropped for a third quarter to 15.3 percent in the three months through December. Consumers spent 3.5 percent more on Christmas shopping with credit and debit cards in December than in 2012, according to SIBS SA, the company that manages the country’s cash machines.

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