Economic growth picks up in Duterte's first 3 months

Joel Guinto, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 17 2016 10:09 AM | Updated as of Nov 17 2016 12:57 PM

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte talks to members of his cabinet after arriving from Malaysia, at Davao International airport in Davao city in southern Philippines, November 11, 2016. Lean Daval Jr., Reuters

MANILA - (UPDATE) Economic growth accelerated in the first three months of President Rodrigo Duterte’s term, beating forecasts on the back of growing investments and a rebound in agriculture, government data released Thursday showed.

Gross domestic product in the July to September period grew 7.1 percent, compared to the 7-percent expansion in the previous quarter, maintaining the country’s status as one of Asia’s fastest-growing economies, the Philippine Statistics Authority said.

Economists polled by Reuters and Bloomberg had expected a 6.7-percent expansion in the third quarter due to the lack of election spending that fueled growth in the first six months of the year.

The Philippine Stock Exchange rose 1.4 percent to 7,063.13 after the GDP data was announced. The peso strengthened to P49.22 from Wednesday’s close of P49.35.

“The positive surprise is necessary to be able to offset some concerns from the external front including the very high probability that the US Federal reserve will be hiking next month,” BPI lead economist Jun Neri told ANC’s “Market Edge with Cathy Yang.”

A rate increase by the Fed, which could come as early as December, is expected to drive funds out of emerging markets like the Philippines and back to the US.

“The other concern is the surprise win of Mr. Trump which could have some very negative implications on our outsourcing as well as overseas Filipino remittances numbers,” he said before the numbers were announced.

A smooth handover of power to Duterte from his predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, last June 30 and the relative speed at which the new government frontloaded spending helped boost third quarter growth, he said.

“The new government benefited from the approval of a P3-trillion budget under Mr. Aquino, because of that they were able to get the ball rolling very quickly,” he said.

Philippine economic growth in the third quarter was faster than China’s 6.7 percent, Vietnam’s 6.4 percent, Indonesia’s 5 percent and Malaysia’s 4.3 percent. India has yet to release GDP data.

The country needs to grow by at least 6.9 percent in the fourth quarter to meet the full-year target of 7 percent.

Private investments jumped 16.2 percent from 4 percent during the same period last year. Public construction grew 20 percent while private consumption increased by 7.3 percent, data showed.

Favorable weather conditions helped the agriculture sector grow by 2.9 percent, breaking five consecutive quarters ofm decline.