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Belgian Economy Gets a Boost From Investment, Consumers

Belgium’s economy expanded at a faster pace than estimated in the fourth quarter as companies boosted investment and consumers spent more.

Gross domestic product grew 0.5 percent in the fourth quarter, up from the 0.4 percent estimated earlier, the National Bank of Belgium said today. That is the strongest gain since the first quarter of 2011. Business investment rose 0.9 percent in the quarter and consumer spending increased 0.6 percent.

“Consumer spending rose at the fastest rate in three years and the same was true for business investments,” said Steven Vanneste, an economist at BNP Paribas Fortis in Brussels. “Looking forward, the robust economic performance of Belgium is likely to last in 2014 as confidence indicators continue to improve.”

The expansion in Belgium, the sixth-largest economy in the euro area, reinforces evidence that the recovery in the currency bloc is gaining momentum. Euro-area economic confidence increased for a ninth month in January, and economists estimate that the bloc’s GDP growth accelerated to 0.3 percent in the fourth quarter from 0.1 percent in the previous three months, according to a Bloomberg survey. The latest euro-area GDP data will be released tomorrow.

Business confidence in Belgium climbed to the highest in 2 1/2 years in February and the nation last week had its credit-rating outlook raised to stable from negative at Standard & Poor’s. S&P affirmed its AA rating.

“Belgium’s GDP has proven its resilience to economic and financial crisis since 2008,” S&P said on Feb. 28. “We estimate that it will grow in real terms by an average of 1.2 percent a year over 2014-2017, based on domestic demand and exports.”

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