The Philippines has defied regional trends by recording a pick-up in growth in the fourth quarter, as a bounce in government spending gave a fresh boost to one of Asia’s fastest-growing economies.
The Southeast Asian country grew at an annualised pace of 6.9 per cent in the final three months of the year, far ahead of the 6 per cent expected by most analysts. The quarter-on-quarter figure of 2.5 per cent was the highest in almost two decades, according to calculations from analysts at Barclays.
A rebound in government spending was a key driver of the higher growth rate. Exports also proved strong, with manufacturing growing 10.7 per cent year on year, while the agricultural sector also performed above expectations.
The Philippines has been among the brightest economic stars in Asia since president Benigno Aquino came to power in 2010. Although the annual growth figure of 6.1 per cent is the lowest since 2011, the economy remains one of the fastest-growing in the world.
The acceleration in growth last quarter contrasts with a slowdown in many regional economies, including India, Indonesia and China.
Investors have given the Philippines a clear endorsement in both the bond and equity markets this year. The Manila index briefly rose above 7,700 points for the first time on Thursday, having clocked up a string of record highs in recent days.
This month the Philippines became the year’s first sovereign issuer in the US dollar bond market, selling $2bn of 30-year debt while paying a record low yield. Unlike Indonesia, all three major international rating agencies now regard the Philippines as investment-grade.
Investor demand has helped make the peso the best-performing currency in Asia in the past three months, during which time it has risen 1.5 per cent against the dollar. No other currency in the region has strengthened against the dollar over that period.
The Asian Development Bank expects the Philippine economy to grow 6.4 per cent this year, the highest in the region after China.
However, some analysts say lower oil prices and the unexpected uptick shown in the latest data suggest the economy may grow even faster.
Research from Capital Economics highlights the country as the world’s biggest beneficiary of the lower crude price.
“The outlook for the rest of the economy is promising. Consumer spending should remain strong on the back of falling oil prices, which will boost consumers’ purchasing power,” said Gareth Leather of Capital Economics in a report.
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