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Swedish GDP grows by 6.4 percent

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10:10 CEST+02:00
The Swedish economy continues to expand, growing by 6.4 percent in the first quarter of 2011, according to new statistics, although GDP growth has slowed slightly.

The new figures, published on Friday by Statistics Sweden (SCB), also showed that Sweden's seasonally adjusted GDP grew by 0.8 percent between the fourth quarter of 2010 and the first three months of 2011.

In addition, household consumption and government spending both increased 2.1 percent, which gross fixed capital formation increased by 8.7 percent.

Exports were up 15 percent and imports increased 13 percent, while industrial production rose by 9.2 percent.

First quarter growth was slightly below the 6.5 percent forecast by a Reuters poll of analysts.

"A little weaker than the 6.5 percent we had expected. Household consumption and net exports were especially disappointing," Swedbank analyst Knut Hallberg told the TT news agency.

"It's clear that households are having a tough time with high fuel prices and mortgage costs."

At the same time, SCB adjusted Sweden's overall GDP growth for 2010 upward from 5.5 percent to 5.7 percent.

Despite the strong figures, first quarter GDP growth has tapered off somewhat from the record growth recorded in the fourth quarter of 2010.

Preliminary statistics put GDP growth for the last three months of 2010 at 7.3 percent, but the figures were later adjusted upward to 7.7 percent – the highest year-on-year quarterly growth rate ever recorded in Sweden.

"The Swedish economy is developing well, even if we're slowing down a bit compared to 2010. And it's in line with most forecasts," Torbjörn Isaksson, an economist with Nordea bank, told TT.

"It's investment and consumption which are a little lower than we expected."

Isaksson added that exports are stronger than forecasted and that inventory effects were also larger than expected

"Changes in inventories account for a whole 2.5 percentage points of growth. There is therefore a need to reduce inventories in parts of the retail sector later this year," he said.

Swedbank's Hallberg emphasised that Sweden's economy is performing well compared to a number of other countries.

But it's clear that growth is slowing and it heading toward more normal levels.

"By the turn of the year I think that we'll have a growth rate of 2.5 percent," he said.

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