Philippine Fourth-Quarter GDP Growth Holds Above 6% on Spending

Philippine growth increased more than economists estimated last quarter as government spending, consumption and investment rose.

Gross domestic product increased 6.8 percent in the three months through December from a year earlier, compared with a 7.2 percent gain in the previous quarter, the National Statistical Coordination Board said in Manila today. The median estimate of 19 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News was 6.3 percent. The economy grew 6.6 percent in 2012.

President Benigno Aquino’s efforts in transforming the Philippines into one of the region’s fastest-growing economies have led to Google Inc. opening an office this month and Ayala Land Inc. unveiling plans to build more hotels. Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas last week refrained from cutting its benchmark rate after four cuts in 2012 and as capital inflows boost the peso.

“While the economy’s been very reliant on private consumption before, growth is now starting to generate investment from the private sector,” Euben Paracuelles, a Singapore-based economist at Nomura Holdings Inc., said before the report. “It’s going to improve the mix of growth drivers, and if the reform momentum continues, there will still be room for peso-denominated assets to do quite well this year.”

The Philippine peso has risen about 6 percent in the past 12 months, the best performer among 25 emerging-market currencies tracked by Bloomberg. The Philippine Stock Exchange Index climbed to a record this month.

Inflation Target

Bangko Sentral last week cut interest rates on its special deposit accounts to 3 percent and kept borrowing costs at a record-low 3.5 percent. The monetary authority targets inflation to average 3 percent to 5 percent until 2014.

Export growth eased to 5.5 percent in November from a 6.1 percent pace the previous month as an uneven global recovery hurt demand. Shipments made up about 20 percent of GDP in 2011.

Since he took office in 2010, Aquino has increased spending, curbed the budget deficit and reduced corruption in an effort to boost economic growth to as much as 8.5 percent by 2016. A peace agreement with Muslim guerrillas in the mineral-rich Mindanao island in October is forecast to bring about $1 billion in investment commitments.

Standard & Poor’s last month raised the country’s sovereign rating outlook to positive, citing improved governance and public finances, and taking it closer to an investment grade. The Philippines is forecast to be among the 10 fastest-growing economies in 2013 and 2014, according to a Bloomberg survey.

Indonesia will report GDP data on Feb. 5, with the central bank estimating last month the economy grew 6.2 percent in the fourth quarter, matching the pace of the previous three months.

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