Paraguay's economy improves in third quarter

ASUNCION Thu Dec 20, 2012 12:50pm EST

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ASUNCION Dec 20 (Reuters) - Paraguay's economy grew 2.0 percent in the third quarter from a year earlier and 3.1 percent versus the second quarter, which could mark the starting point for a recovery, the central bank said on Thursday.

The central bank has forecast a 1.5 percent contraction in gross domestic product (GDP) for 2012, but bank official Miguel Mora said the third-quarter data could prompt a new estimate that would be "closer to zero."

In the July-September period, Paraguay's economy got a big boost from the beef industry as exports regained steam. Livestock ranching grew 11.4 percent year on year, manufacturing jumped 9.7 percent and services rose 7.4 percent.

At the same time, activity in the agricultural sector sank 27.6 percent due to a drought that chopped the country's soybean crop in half. Paraguay is the world's No. 4 soybean exporter although it lags far behind the top three suppliers.

Paraguay's GDP shrank 2.9 percent year on year in the first quarter and 2.3 percent in the second quarter. The economy contracted 1.1 percent from January through September versus the same period of 2011.

In October, the central bank raised its outlook for 2013 economic growth to 9.5 percent, citing expectations for a big jump in soy and grains output.

In early December, the International Monetary Fund raised its forecast for Paraguay's 2013 economic growth to 11 percent, saying good weather should bump up farm production and a planned bond issue would likely fill government coffers.

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