Belgium: Economic activity rises in first quarter
June 6, 2012
In the first quarter, GDP increased a seasonally and calendar-adjusted 0.3% over the previous quarter, according to revised data published by the National Bank of Belgium on 6 June. The reading confirmed the 2 May flash estimate and contrasted the 0.1% decline recorded in the fourth quarter. In annual terms, GDP grew 0.5% in the first quarter, weaker than the 1.2% expansion registered in the final quarter of 2011. The quarterly expansion reflected an improvement of the external sector over the previous quarter, with exports of goods and services expanding 0.6% in the first quarter (Q4 2011: -1.5% quarter-on-quarter) and imports growing 0.2% (Q4: -1.8% qoq). As a result, the external sector's net contribution to overall growth improved from a 0.2 percentage-point contribution in the fourth quarter to a 0.4 percentage-point contribution in the first quarter. Meanwhile, growth in private consumption was flat over the previous quarter (Q4: +0.2 qoq), while government spending grew 0.2% in Q1, which contrasted the flat reading in Q4. Gross fixed investment expanded 0.5% in the January-March period, rebounding from the 1.5% drop recorded in the final quarter of 2011. The National Bank of Belgium revised its growth forecast for this year and now expects GDP to expand 0.6%, which contrasted its previous projection of a 0.1% contraction. For 2013, the Bank predicts that economic growth will accelerate to 1.4%. The Central Bank stated that economic growth will be boosted by strong growth in exports, given the strong trade links with Germany.
Author: Ricardo Aceves, Senior Economist