Bulgaria’s Economy Expands for 10th Quarter on Demand

Bulgaria’s economy expanded for a 10th quarter as rising domestic demand offset a drop in exports to European nations struggling to emerge from the debt crisis.

Gross domestic product rose 0.5 percent in the fourth quarter from a year earlier, matching the rate in the previous three months, the Sofia-based Statistics Institute said today in a preliminary estimate. The median estimate of three economists surveyed by Bloomberg was 0.7 percent. Seasonally adjusted GDP advanced 0.1 percent from the previous quarter.

Unlike regional peers, Bulgaria weathered the global economic crisis without borrowing abroad. The economy of the European Union’s poorest country by per-capita output relies on the 27-nation bloc to buy its exports of machinery, metals and furniture. The government increased investment in road and railway construction, which is co-financed by the EU.

“It’s a slow, though steady growth over a long period,” Tsvetoslav Tsachev, an analyst at Elana Trading in Sofia, said by phone today. “Most of the GDP components show an increase, so we might see an upward revision in the economic growth figure when final data is published next month.”

Exports, which are equivalent to about two-thirds of GDP and include car-parts producers such as Melexis NV and Montupet SA, rose an annual 1.8 percent in the fourth quarter after a 3.3 percent increase in the previous three months, the statistics office said. Imports fell to 0.8 percent from a year earlier compared with 4 percent in the third quarter.

Household consumption rose 3.5 percent in the fourth quarter from a year earlier, after rising 3 percent in the previous three months, the office said. Public consumption fell 1.4 percent, while total end-user demand rose 2.3 percent after a 3 percent increase in the previous three months.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm in Brussels, estimated Bulgaria’s economic growth at 0.8 percent in 2012, compared with 1 percent predicted by the International Monetary Fund, which cited stronger domestic demand boosted by EU aid. The government sees GDP growth of 1.2 percent this year.