Philippines Q1 GDP contracts more than expected on prolonged lockdowns

Vehicles travel along the Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA) highway in Metro Manila, the Philippines, on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. The Philippines’ economy is struggling to gain momentum as elevated numbers of Covid-19 cases hamper reopening efforts and destroy jobs. - Bloomberg

MANILA, May 15 (Reuters): The Philippine economy shrank by more than expected in the first quarter of 2021, supporting views that the central bank will keep interest rates at a record-low at a policy meeting this week.

Gross domestic product fell 4.2% in the March quarter from a year earlier, the statistics agency said earlier this week, marking the fifth straight quarter of declines amid pandemic-induced lockdowns.

Economists in a Reuters poll had expected the GDP to contract 3.0% after slumping 8.3% year-on-year in the previous quarter.

Among the major economic sectors, agriculture declined by 1.2% while services and industry contracted by 4.4% and 4.7 per cent, respectively.

On the demand side, household consumption shrank 4.8%, but government spending grew 16.1%.

The economy's performance, however, improved on a sequential basis, growing 0.3% from the previous quarter on seasonally adjusted terms.

"The country's strong economic position before the pandemic and improving economic data in recent months point to an economy that is on the mend," Economic Planning Secretary Karl Chua said at a briefing.

The South-East Asian country is battling one of Asia's worst coronavirus outbreaks with more than a million cases recorded and more than 18,000 deaths since last year.

The economy's extended slump is expected to prompt the central bank to keep its benchmark interest rate unchanged at a record low of 2.0% on Wednesday for a fourth consecutive meeting, according to all 13 economists in a Reuters poll.

Some economists even expect the BSP to keep rates unchanged for the rest of 2021, despite high inflation that has breached its 2%-4% target band mainly due to tight pork supply. - Reuters
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Philippines , GDP , Q1 , Contracts , Covid-19 , Issues


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