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UPDATE 1-Panama's economy grows 6.3 pct in 2nd quarter

* Panama one of the strongest performers in Latin America

* Country less vulnerable to global economy, analyst says (Updates with details, quote)

PANAMA CITY, Sept 15 (Reuters) - Panama’s economy grew 6.3 percent in the second quarter versus the same period a year ago, the government said on Wednesday.

Panama posted strong gains across many sectors in the second quarter, including banking, tourism and construction boosted by the $5.25 billion expansion of the Panama Canal.

The Central American country’s economy has been one of the strongest performers in Latin America in recent years, withstanding the global economic downturn with a 2.4 percent expansion in 2009.

The government and analysts expect Panama’s economy to expand at least 5 percent this year.

In spite of slight declines in traffic through the canal, the country’s gross domestic product could grow 6.3 percent this year and 6.9 percent in 2011, according to a projection by Barclays Capital.

“The Panamanian economy continues to perform strongly because of an increase in private and public consumption and investment, making the country less vulnerable to a slower recovery in the global economy,” Barclays said in a report on Wednesday. (Reporting by Sean Mattson; editing by Carol Bishopric)

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