UPDATE 1-Russia's economic growth picks up in Q3 to 1.7%

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MOSCOW, Nov 13 (Reuters) - Russia’s economic growth picked up in the third quarter and slightly exceeded market expectations thanks to a boost from an increase in gas exports, the Federal Statistics Service said on Wednesday.

The statistics service Rosstat said gross domestic product grew by 1.7% in the third quarter of 2019 in year-on-year terms, up from 0.9% in the second quarter.

Analysts polled by Reuters had on average expected GDP to grow by 1.6%, while the central bank had forecast it at 0.8%-1.3%.

“Based on the data upon which this preliminary third-quarter GDP estimate was formed, we see that it was significantly influenced by the increase in wholesale trade turnover, in particular the gas trade,” said the head of Rosstat, Pavel Malkov.

The issue of sluggish economic growth in Russia has become acute recently and drew attention from President Vladimir Putin who ordered his government to find ways to speed up the economy.

Since the imposition of Western sanctions in 2014, Russia has endured an economic growth slowdown. The economy grew by 2.3% in 2018 and was on track to expand by only around 1% this year.

In the first nine months of 2019, GDP expanded by 1.1% and was on track to grow by around 1.7% in the fourth quarter, year on year, the economy ministry said after the data release.

Explaining economic growth in July-September, Malkov said it was driven by a 3.8% increase in the trade turnover, with agriculture production rising by 5.1%, mining up 2.9% and production also up 2.9%.

The statistics, though positive, fell short of the economy ministry’s own forecasts of 1.9% third-quarter growth and 1.2% GDP growth from January to September.

A more realistic target for GDP growth for the year would be at the level of 1.0%, in line with the consensus forecasts of international institutions, said Kirill Tremasov, a former economy ministry official and now head of research at Loko-Invest. (Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Writing by Alexander Marrow; editing by Andrey Ostroukh and Alexandra Hudson)