Uruguay economy grew 6.5 percent in 4th-quarter 2010

MONTEVIDEO Tue Mar 22, 2011 5:27pm EDT

MONTEVIDEO (Reuters) - Uruguay's economy grew by 6.5 percent in the last quarter of 2010 compared with the year-earlier period, while full-year growth came in at 8.5 percent, the central bank said on Tuesday.

The traditionally agriculture-driven economy grew 1.5 percent in the fourth quarter versus the third quarter, speeding up from the revised 0.6 percent rate in the July-through-September period.

The biggest increases quarter-on-quarter were in the transportation, storage and communications sector -- which gained 6.0 percent -- and in the commerce, repairs, restaurants and hotels sector, up 4.1 percent from the third quarter.

The same two sectors were the main drivers of the 6.5 percent year-on-year expansion in the fourth quarter, the central bank said, citing higher sales of automobiles and other imported goods and growth in the telecommunications industry,

In year-on-year terms, revised data showed growth in the South American country's gross domestic product slowed from the third quarter when it was 7.7 percent.

Annual growth in 2010 came in a full two percentage points above the government's 6.5 percent target, fueled in large part by a 10.8 percent increase in domestic demand.

The government foresees 4.5 percent growth in 2011.

Inflation has accompanied the higher-than-expected growth, with annual inflation at 7.67 percent through February, above the central bank's target range of 4 percent to 6 percent by year's end.

The central bank is expected to raise its benchmark interest rate at a quarterly meeting on Wednesday to try to tame inflation pressure.

(Additional reporting and writing by Hilary Burke; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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