Philippine growth slower than estimated

MANILA • Philippine economic growth was slower than economists estimated last quarter, as expansion in investment and manufacturing weakened. The currency pared its gain.

GDP rose 6.1% in the fourth quarter from a year earlier, compared to the 6.3% median estimate in a Bloomberg survey. Growth was 6% in the previous three months. The economy expanded 6.2% in 2018, the weakest in three years.

While expansion is slower compared to previous years, the economy is still among the fastest-growing in the world, joining the ranks of China and Vietnam in Asia.

The peso pared its gain and was little changed after the data, after rising as much as 0.2% earlier. Inflation, which soared above the central bank’s target last year, is expected to ease this year and that will support consumer spending as exports falter.

The central bank raised interest rates 175 basis points last year, among the most in Asia, to curb price-growth and support the currency. Infrastructure has been a pillar of the economy as President Rodrigo Duterte boosts spending on roads and railways to a record.

“Philippine growth outlook remains robust. Amid rising risks on external demand, Philippines’ strong domestic demand will provide a significant cushion,” said Eugenia Victorino, head of Asia strategy at Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken AB.

The nation will hold midterm elections in May, where about 18,000 national and local posts will be contested. — Bloomberg