CORRECTED-Greek mood gauge hits best level for more than 3 years

Thu Apr 4, 2013 10:29am EDT

(Corrects year in monthly column headings of table)
    * Greek economic sentiment at highest level since Nov. 2009
    * Survey does not reflect Cyprus crisis impact
    * Consumers remain depressed amid record unemployment

    ATHENS, April 4 (Reuters) - Greece's economic sentiment
gauge improved in March to its highest level since the country's
debt crisis began at the end of 2009, but remains far below its
long-term average, data showed on Thursday.
    The Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE)
sentiment index for an economy in its sixth straight year of
recession rose to 88.1 points from 86.9 in February. The
country's long-term average is 96.1.
    The index, based on consumer confidence and business outlook
gauges across the economy, has improved since a Greek election
in June and a new funding deal with international lenders in
November that eased worries the country might leave the euro.
    The survey was largely completed before the Cyprus crisis
and may not reflect new uncertainties after the raid on bank
deposits as part of the island's 10 billion euro bailout.
    IOBE said there were improved readings in industry and
retail trade, but the outlook on the services and construction
sectors weakened.
    While the payment of arrears owed by the state had a
positive impact, unemployment continued to rise, particularly
long-term joblessness, diminishing tax-paying ability and
pension system revenues, IOBE said.
    Greek consumers, the main driver of the economy, remain the
most pessimistic in Europe amid record unemployment as Athens
applies austerity policies to shore up public finances and keep
bailout aid flowing.   
    The jobless rate has climbed above 26 percent, the highest
rate in the 17-nation euro zone. The economy is expected to
contract by about 4.5 percent this year, meaning that GDP will
shrink by almost a quarter in 2008-2013.

    IOBE provided the following data:
**********************************************************
                                                    YR AVERAGE  
                      MARCH '13  FEB '13  JAN '13   2012  2011  
OVERALL SENTIMENT       88.1     86.9     85.8      80.0  80.6  
-industrial             87.1     84.4     83.7      77.2  76.9  
-services               60.4     62.3     58.9      54.8  61.7  
-retail trade           64.2     60.3     62.6      57.1  58.9  
-construction           47.1     55.0     38.5      43.2  34.2  
-consumer confidence   -71.2    -71.4    -71.9     -74.8 -74.1  
--------------------------------------------------------------  
    source: IOBE

 (Reporting by George Georgiopoulos; editing by Stephen Nisbet)
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