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Catalan economy finds new gear, grows 0.7% in first quarter

GDP is at 2.5%, with good performance from industry and a boost from construction

The Catalan economy has found new momentum in the first quarter of 2017, after a moderate period during the second half of 2016, according to figures released on Thursday by the Statistical Institute of Catalonia (Idescat) and the Department of the Vice-Presidency, Economy, and Treasury.

According to the data, the Catalan Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by 0.7% during the first quarter and surpassed the two previous quarters, when it grew by 0.5%. During 2016 the increases were 1% in the first quarter, 0.9% in the second, and 0.5% in the third and fourth quarters.

In year-to-year comparisons, Catalan GDP showed a growth of 2.5% over the first quarter of last year. During 2016 the average inter-annual GDP was 3.5%, but the economy's slowdown during the second half of the year can be seen in the quarterly behavior, with growth of 3.8% the two first quarters, 3.4% in the third quarter, and 2.8% in the fourth.

By sectors, the inter-annual industrial growth was 3%, and it continued the trend that began in 2014. The subsectors with the best performance were that of machinery and mechanical equipment; textiles, clothing, leather, and footwear; water extraction and distribution and pharmaceuticals.

Construction continues to gain steam, and the first quarter of 2017 showed growth of 6.3% thanks to the residential sub-sector, especially housing. The increase in contributors to Social Security and a rise in cement orders were evidence of improvement in construction, despite the slowdown in public works which, depending on the budget, is not expected to improve in the short term according to the Ministry of Economy. In fact, construction is the only sector that continues to grow in inter-annual terms.

As for the service sector, it has levelled off after the slowdown in the second half of last year. The inter-annual growth in this sector was 2.2% versus 2.3% the previous quarter.
The volume of foreign tourism increased by 4% inter-annually in the first three months, with positive trends in overnight hotel stays. This did not happen with Spanish tourism, however, due to the fact that Easter Week was in April this year whereas last year it fell in March.

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