Spain stays in recession as inflation bites

Tue Oct 30, 2012 5:27am EDT
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MADRID (Reuters) - Spain's recession extended into the third quarter while inflation stayed high in October, data showed, indicating a government austerity programme to cut the public deficit is also pushing up living costs.

Gross domestic product shrank 0.3 percent quarter on quarter between July and September, marking the fifth straight quarter of contraction, according to Tuesday's preliminary data from the National Statistics Institute.

The reading was slightly better than forecasts for a fall of 0.4 percent, but any suggestion that that marked an upturn was "a mirage," said Estefania Ponte, an economist at Madrid-based broker Cortal Consors.

"It does not mean the economy is doing better, but only shows the families have brought forward purchases ahead of the VAT hike," she said.

On an annual basis, he economy shrank 1.6 percent, suggesting Spain was in line to meet its end-of-year GDP target.

EU-harmonised consumer prices rose by 3.5 percent year-on-year in October, according to separate preliminary data that topped a Reuters forecast of 3.4 percent. The figure was unchanged from September.

Spain's conservatives, in power since December, have laid out spending cuts and tax hikes worth over 60 billion euros to end-2014 to cut the budget gap to within EU guidelines.

The measures included an across-the-board increase of the value-added tax rate, in force since September 1, which pushed up consumer prices and hit sentiment on the high street.

Retail sales fell at the sharpest pace on record in September after already cash-strapped shoppers shied away from purchases after the tax hike.   Continued...

A customer shops for fruit and vegetables at Madrid's Chamberi market April 12, 2011. REUTERS/Susana Vera