ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece's current account deficit shrank 46 percent year on year in January, helped by a smaller trade gap, the country's central bank said on Tuesday, in a rare bit of good news for the recession-hit economy.
The deficit narrowed to 1.5 billion euros ($1.98 billion) from 2.75 billion in the same month in 2011, the Bank of Greece said.
A key indicator of macroeconomic imbalance, the current account gap reflects eroded economic competitiveness, in part due to wage increases above productivity.
"The current account gap shows significant improvement in January, helped by the continuing growth of exports, a marked drop in the volume of fuel imports and lower outlays for tourism and transport services abroad," said Nikos Magginas, an economist at National Bank of Greece.
He expects the narrowing trend to gather pace in the rest of the year, especially if the contribution from tourism and shipping accelerates from the second quarter onwards.
Greece shrank its current account gap to 9.8 percent of gross domestic product last year from 10.5 percent in 2010 and 11 percent in 2009.
The central bank sees the deficit narrowing further to about 7 percent of GDP this year.
KEY FIGURES (bln euros) 2012 2011
January -1.492 -2.757
December -2.172 -1.819
November -2.303 -2.483
October -1.503 -2.252
September -1.097 -1.251
Year-to-December -21.070 -22.976
DATA IN DETAIL (bln euros)
Jan 2012 Jan 2011
Trade balance -2.338 -3.232
Exports 1.744 1.399
Imports 4.081 4.630
Services balance 530 312
Income balance -474 -518
source: Bank of Greece
Reporting by George Georgiopoulos and Tatiana Fragou; Editing by Ingrid Melander, John Stonestreet