Philippine Q1 GDP growth likely around 7 pct or higher - official

MANILA, April 14 Mon Apr 14, 2014 6:27am EDT

MANILA, April 14 (Reuters) - The Philippine economy likely grew around 7 percent or better in the first quarter from a year earlier supported by export growth, domestic consumption, and infrastructure spending, a senior government official said on Monday.

The country is likely to sustain its growth momentum after ending 2013 with 7.2 percent growth, the second fastest in the region after China.

"I'm sure it will be very close or will be above 7 percent," Gil Beltran, undersecretary and chief economist at the Finance department, told reporters.

"It will be a very good number because of car sales, exports, also electricity consumption - all point towards robust growth," he said.

Official first quarter GDP data will be released on May 29. The government expects economic growth of 6.5 to 7.5 percent this year.

"Output expansion is expected to be sustained over the coming quarters," Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Amando Tetangco said over the weekend.

The local automotive sector recorded annual growth of 23 percent in unit sales in the first quarter, with sales for March alone reaching a record volume of 19,173 units, more than 25 percent higher than a year earlier.

Exports rose at their fastest pace in more than three years in February, with top shipment electronics jumping 27 percent from a year earlier. Electronics exports posted annual growth of more than 20 percent from December to February.

"The external sector is coming in very strong. And then also capital formation. Household consumption is picking up," Rosemarie Edillon, assistant director general at the economic planning agency, said at a news conference on Monday. She added that construction and manufacturing would also be contributors to growth in the first quarter.

Reconstruction after the damage wrought by super typhoon Haiyan in November was expected to accelerate public spending, with the country likely to achieve infrastructure spending equivalent to 5 percent of GDP earlier than a 2016 target, said Emmanuel Esguerra, deputy director general at the economic planning agency.

(Reporting by Rosemarie Francisco and Siegfrid Alegado; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)