Russian Economy Probably Quickened for First Time Since 2010

2011-11-14 12:35:42

Russia’s economic growth probably accelerated in the third quarter for the first time since last year as companies stepped up investment and bank lending buoyed consumer spending.

Gross domestic product expanded 5 percent from a year earlier, matching the fastest pace since the second quarter of 2010, after increasing 3.4 percent in the previous three months, according to the median estimate of 14 economists surveyed by Bloomberg. The Economy Ministry estimated growth at 5.1 percent. The Federal Statistics Service will release GDP figures today or tomorrow.

The world’s largest energy exporter is counting on domestic consumption to balance shrinking demand abroad as Europe fights to staunch a debt crisis. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who will run for president next year, is seeking annual growth of between 6 percent and 7 percent and turn the economy into one of the world’s five largest.

“A revival of investment demand and slower import growth have allowed the economy to pick up a good tempo,” Alexei Moiseev, chief economist at VTB Capital in Moscow, the investment banking arm of Russia’s second-largest bank, said in a telephone interview on Nov. 11.

Investment, Retail

Fixed-capital investment surged 8.5 percent from a year earlier in September, while unemployment fell to a more than three-year low. Retail sales jumped 9.2 percent in the biggest increase since October 2008 after a 7.8 percent gain in August.

The 30-stock Micex Index advanced 1.6 percent, the most in almost two weeks, to 1,508.70 at 11:14 a.m. in Moscow. The ruble-denominated gauge is down 11 percent this year, less than the 15 percent drop for the MSCI Emerging Markets Index.

Loan growth may reach 30 percent this year, Deputy Economy Minister Andrei Klepach said on Oct. 25, above the central bank forecast of 24 percent.

“Growth in consumption and retail lending is continuing,” Julia Tsepliaeva, head of research at BNP Paribas SA in Moscow, said Nov. 11. “If somebody told me at the start of the year that we’ll have a 30 percent annual increase in credit growth, I would have never believed that. Now that figure no longer seems improbable.”

‘Substantial Contribution’

Agriculture also made a “substantial contribution” to growth last quarter, according to Tsepliaeva.

Russian farmers harvested 95 million metric tons of grain as of Oct. 25, according to the Agriculture Ministry. That’s about 50 percent more than in the same period of 2010 and bolsters the industry following the country’s worst drought in at least a half century last year.

The sovereign-debt crisis in Europe, Russia’s most important export market, is hurting demand for manufactured goods. Industrial production grew 3.9 percent in September from a year earlier, the slowest pace since it began expanding in October 2009.

Manufacturing stalled in the July-September period, posting the worst performance since the fourth quarter of 2009 and leaving producers to “face lasting stagnation” after foreign sales weakened, HSBC Holdings Plc said, citing data compiled by London-based Markit Economics.

Urals crude, Russia’s chief export blend, declined for the second straight quarter, losing 8.2 percent in the July- September period. Russia depends on crude and natural gas for about 40 percent of budget revenue.

‘Disappointing’ Growth

Growth in Russia has been “disappointing” since the 2008 crisis, lagging behind its emerging-market peers, Nouriel Roubini, co-founder and chairman of Roubini Global Economics LLC said in Moscow Nov. 11. Russia needs “a more open attitude to private-sector developments” and greater infrastructure reforms, he said.

The economy will match its pre-crisis level by the end of this year, taking twice as long to recover compared with the 1998 crisis that followed the government’s default, according to Renaissance Capital.

Russia’s economy grew at an average annual rate of 7 percent during Putin’s presidency from 2000 to 2008 before plunging 7.8 percent in 2009. The government forecasts a 4.1 percent expansion this year, slipping to 3.7 percent in 2012.