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Sweden’s growth ‘better than expected’

Sweden’s gross domestic product grew 2.6 percent in the second quarter of 2014 compared to the same period a year earlier, with the economy performing much better than previously thought.

Sweden’s growth 'better than expected'
Strong household consumption is helping Sweden's growth. Photo: Mona-Lisa Djerf/SvD/TT

The second-quarter figures from Statistics Sweden (SCB) also showed GDP up 0.7 percent compared to the first quarter.

The news will come as a boost for the Prime Minister elect, Stefan Löfven, as the agency revised its preliminary figures for the quarter upwards by 0.7 percentage points.

Financial experts have expressed concern over the “fog of uncertainty” brought on by political instability in a hung parliament.

Sweden’s currency, the krona, took a small hit in the immediate aftermath of Sunday’s election.

Election puts Sweden in 'fog of uncertainty'

“To some extent SCB had expected an increase since the preliminary figures come out so early,” Mats Dillén, director-general of the National Institute of Economic Research (NIER), told The Local.

“But it is still better than they expected and, to be honest, it’s also somewhat stronger than we had anticipated.”

Mats Dillén said the strong growth was fuelled partly by levels of household consumption that were “very strong in a European perspective.”

Investments in the housing sector were also having a positive effect, he said.

The export sector however remained sluggish, due mainly to low demand in the eurozone.

NIER was sticking to its general prognosis for the year, Dillén said, with early third-quarter figures showing that Swedish exports and a eurozone recovery were both “standing still somewhat”.

For Stefan Löfven the figures will provide some welcome impetus as he seeks to form a government but Dillén said the autumn slump meant the finance ministry would not get over-excited.  

As for next year, “most observers expect there to be more growth allied with falling unemployment,” but OECD figures showing slow growth in the eurozone meant prospects remained “quite uncertain”, said Dillén.  

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ECONOMY

Swedish economy to grind to a halt as interest rates kick in

Sweden faces an economic slump next year that will see economic growth grind to a complete stop, Sweden's official government economics forecaster, has warned.

Swedish economy to grind to a halt as interest rates kick in

Sweden’s National Institute of Economic Research, which is tasked with tracking the business cycle for the Swedish government, warned in its quarterly forecast on Wednesday that greater than expected energy prices, interest rate rises, and stubborn inflation rates, Sweden was facing a significant downturn. 

The institute has shaved 1.6 percentage points off its forecast for growth in 2023, leaving the economy at a standstill, contracting -0.1 percent over the year. 

The institute now expects unemployment of 7.7 percent in 2023, up from a forecast of 7.5 percent given when in its last forecast in June.

“We can see that households are already starting to reign in their consumption,” said Ylva Hedén Westerdahl, the institute’s head of forecasting, saying this was happening “a little earlier than we had thought”. 

“We thought this would have happened when electricity bills went up, and interest rates went up a little more,” she continued. 

The bank expects household consumption to contract in 2023, something that she said was “quite unusual” and had not happened since Sweden’s 1990s economic crisis, apart from in the immediate aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

This was partly down to a five percent reduction in real salaries in Sweden in 2022, taking into account inflation, which the institute expects to be followed by a further two percent fall in real salaries in 2023. 

If the incoming Moderate-led government goes ahead with plans to reimburse consumers for high power prices, however, this would counterbalance the impact of inflation, leaving Swedish households’ purchasing power unchanged. 

The institute said it expected inflation to average 7.7 percent this year and 4.6 percent in 2023, both higher than it had forecast earlier.

Sweden’s Riksbank central bank this month hike its key interest rate by a full percentage point, after inflation hit 9 percent in August, the biggest single hike since the 1990s. 

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