Greek economy posts surprise Q2 growth

An empty handicrafts store in Thessaloniki, Greece's second-biggest city. Economists cautioned that the country's second-quarter growth figures should be taken with a "grain of salt".
An empty handicrafts store in Thessaloniki, Greece's second-biggest city. Economists cautioned that the country's second-quarter growth figures should be taken with a "grain of salt".PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

ATHENS • Greece's economy grew in the second quarter in a surprise surge just before the stand-off between the government and its creditors forced officials to impose capital controls.

The report came as the ruling Syriza party edged towards a formal split, hours before rebel leftist lawmakers have promised to vote against a new bailout deal to keep the country afloat.

With opposition support, the government is asking Parliament to approve an €85 billion (S$133 billion) bailout deal that Greece needs to avoid defaulting on a debt repayment next week.

Recent reports painted a picture of an economy crippled by months of bailout haggling and question marks over the nation's future in the euro. The turmoil forced the government to increase its use of emergency funds for banks and to shut its financial system.

The Hellenic Statistical Authority in Athens said that gross domestic product rose 0.8 per cent in the second quarter, as it revised up the first quarter to show stagnation. Yesterday's data came as a shock after economists had forecast a 0.5 per cent contraction.

WARNING

I wouldn't put too much weight on it as a sign of Greek economic resilience. One way or another, the economic weakness will come through quite significantly in the numbers.

MR NICK KOUNIS, an economist at ABN Amro Bank in Amsterdam, on Greece's second-quarter GDP growth

Nominal GDP, which excludes adjustments for price changes, fell 0.7 per cent in the period to June 30.

"I wouldn't put too much weight on it as a sign of Greek economic resilience," said Mr Nick Kounis, an economist at ABN Amro Bank in Amsterdam.

"One way or another, the economic weakness will come through quite significantly in the numbers."

The second-quarter data did not capture the impact of the capital controls, which came into effect at the end of June.

A Greek manufacturing index fell to a record low in July, with companies citing a "generally uncertain operating environment".

Mr David Powell, chief euro area economist at Bloomberg, said the second-quarter numbers should be taken "with a grain of salt" because there might have been a temporary boost to domestic demand as consumers increased spending in anticipation of the measures.

"It was better to have goods than euros locked up in a bank," he said.

Eurostat, the European Union's statistics office, will publish second-quarter data for the currency region today, which is forecast to show 0.4 per cent growth. That will follow national reports from France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands. Spain's economy grew 1 per cent, according to a provisional estimate issued on July 30.

The Greek Parliament is expected to approve the bailout agreement by a comfortable margin since the opposition parties have promised their backing for the government to ensure Greece does not return to financial chaos.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras faces a rebellion among about a quarter of his 149 lawmakers.

BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 14, 2015, with the headline 'Greek economy posts surprise Q2 growth'. Print Edition | Subscribe