May 22, 2017 / 2:08 PM / 2 years ago

Mexico raises 2017 growth estimate as Trump fears fade

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico revised its official 2017 growth estimate upward on Monday, shortly after government data showed the economy was largely shrugging off fears U.S. President Donald Trump’s policies would wreak havoc on exports and investment.

Sacks of different varieties of corn grain are displayed at a market in Mexico City, Mexico, May 19, 2017. REUTERS/Henry Romero

Mexico’s finance ministry said in a statement it was raising its 2017 growth estimate to 1.5 percent-2.5 percent from its previous range of 1.3 percent-2.3 percent.

Seasonally adjusted data released by national statistics agency INEGI showed that gross domestic product (GDP) grew at a rate of 0.7 percent in the first three months of 2017, the same pace as in the fourth quarter. GDP expanded 2.8 percent compared with the first quarter of 2016.

“The data has moved in a better direction and this means the Mexican economy has moved in a better direction,” Finance Minister Jose Antonio Meade told reporters on the sidelines of an event. But the risk of volatility persists, he said without offering details.

The election of Trump last year raised the specter of recession in Mexico as he threatened to shred the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and pursue U.S. policies that could hurt the Mexican economy. That sent the peso into a tailspin and prompted some economists to cut growth forecasts.

But the slow progress in starting talks on NAFTA and an overall softening of rhetoric about U.S. companies that invest in Mexico have calmed nerves for now.

The new growth estimate is seen as good news for Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto’s administration just before important regional elections that serve as a curtain-raiser for a hotly contested presidential vote in 2018.

The presidential race and doubts surrounding Trump’s future policies are likely to weigh on spending by both international and domestic firms, wrote Alberto Ramos, co-head of Latin America Economic Research team at Goldman Sachs.

“Important investment decisions may be postponed, scaled down or even canceled,” Ramos said.

Growth was higher than preliminary figures released last month, which projected quarter-on-quarter growth of 0.6 percent. The preliminary data showed the economy growing at an annual rate of 2.7 percent for the quarter.

Monday’s data showed Mexico’s agricultural sector expanded 1.1 percent in the first quarter, compared with growth of 0.6 percent in the fourth quarter, while the services sector expanded 1 percent from 0.9 percent in the previous three-month period.

Reporting by Mexico City newsroom; Editing by G Crosse and Grant McCool

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