Philippines beats economic growth forecast despite soaring inflation

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Vendors stand by their fruit stalls at a public market in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines. Reuters

The Philippine economy grew at a faster-than-expected clip in the third quarter, but the government said the recovery is not without risks given rising interest rates and soaring inflation that could crimp consumer spending.

Underpinned by pent-up domestic demand, the economy expanded 7.6 per cent in the third quarter from a year earlier, official data showed on Thursday, far outpacing the 6.3 per cent forecast in a Reuters poll and faster than the 7.5 per cent growth in the second quarter.

The economy would likely grow above the government’s 6.5 per cent-7.5 per cent growth target for 2022, Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan told a media briefing.

On a quarterly basis, gross domestic product (GDP) rose 2.9 per cent versus a 0.1 per cent contraction in April-June and an expected 1 per cent rise, the data showed.

“While these developments are remarkable, I want to underscore that our nation still faces a considerable burden in the form of high inflation,” Balisacan said.

Rising import costs, aggravated by a weaker peso, pushed inflation to a near 14-year high in October, cementing expectations of a sixth rate increase at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’(BSP) meeting on Nov.17.

A 75-basis-point hike appeared to be in the bag after the BSP said on Nov.3 it will match the Federal Reserve’s three-quarters of a percentage point rate rise to support the peso, which has so far lost 12.3 per cent against the US dollar this year.

Despite the series of rate hikes, growth in the Philippines averaged 7.7 per cent in the nine months to September helped by the full reopening of the economy as the government continuously lifted COVID-19 restrictions from early this year.

Balisacan said the government remained committed to fighting inflation to protect people’s purchasing power, including by tightening monetary policy.

“We cannot afford not to adjust (rates) with the rest of the world,” he said.

Household consumption rose 8.0 per cent in the third quarter from a year ago, slower than the previous quarter’s 8.6 per cent pace but faster than the 7.1 per cent growth in the same period last year, the data showed.

“In the face of surging prices, that’s a big upside surprise,” said ING economist Nicholas Mapa.

Meanwhile shares in the Philippines and Indonesia led losses among emerging Asian markets on Thursday as further steep interest rate hikes by their central banks remained a possibility due to strong economic growth. Stocks in Manila and Jakarta lost over 1% each. The Philippine peso and the Indonesian rupiah were a tad weaker in choppy trading, as the US dollar firmed ahead of inflation data from the world’s largest economy.

Shares in Thailand and South Korea fell 0.2 per cent and 0.7 per cent, respectively, as broader sentiment remained subdued ahead of the US data that could inform the Federal Reserve’s policy path ahead. T

he Philippine economy grew at a faster-than-expected rate, but the government said the recovery is not without risks given rising rates and soaring inflation that could crimp consumer spending.




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