Bloomberg News

Swedish Economy Expands More Than Estimated as Exports Grow

November 29, 2011

(Updates market reaction in sixth paragraph, adds analyst comments from eighth paragraph.)

Nov. 29 (Bloomberg) -- Sweden’s economy expanded faster than most analysts estimated in the third quarter as exports picked up and companies continued investing, easing pressure on the central bank to cut interest rates.

Gross domestic product grew an annual 4.6 percent in the third quarter, slowing from a revised 4.7 percent in the prior three-month period, Stockholm-based Statistics Sweden said today. Growth was forecast at 3.4 percent, according to the median estimate in a survey of 15 economists. Output expanded 1.6 percent from the period through June.

“Exports are contributing strongly but considering what’s happening around the world this is probably the last time we’ll see that kind of strong figure,” said Annika Winsth, chief economist at Nordea Bank AB in Stockholm. The figure means Sweden’s central bank is less likely to cut its benchmark interest rate at its meeting next month, she said.

Sweden’s central bank, the Riksbank, last month kept its benchmark interest rate unchanged at 2 percent and signaled it will scale back tightening plans to safeguard the largest Nordic economy’s expansion. Finance Minister Anders Borg has said the government stands ready to add stimulus should the need arise, adding such measures won’t jeopardize Sweden’s fiscal health thanks to its budget surpluses.

The krona gained 0.6 percent against the euro to trade at 9.2306 as of 10:46 a.m. in Stockholm. Against the dollar, the currency rose 0.7 percent to 6.9353, making it today’s best performing major currency after the Korean won.

Rising Exports

Net exports, which adjust for the effect of imports, contributed 2.5 percentage points to annual GDP growth as exports grew 8.2 percent and imports rose 3.8 percent. Fixed investments contributed 1 percentage point, household spending 0.4 point, government expenditure 0.5 point and inventories 0.2 point.

“What’s disappointing are the households, which were much weaker than expected,” Winsth said. “We will see considerably weaker growth in 2012” in terms of GDP, she said. This will prompt the Riksbank to halve its main lending rate to 1 percent by the end of next year, she said.

Swedish manufacturing and consumer confidence have fallen to the lowest since 2009 because of plunging stock markets, stagnant house prices and waning demand from continental Europe.

Retail sales fell in each of the three months through September as unemployment unexpectedly rose to 6.9 percent in October, while household borrowing growth slowed for a 13th month in October.

‘Cautious’ Households

“We expect the fourth quarter to show negative growth quarter-on-quarter” since households will remain “cautious” and because of “weakening” prospects for exports, Knut Hallberg, an analyst at Swedbank AB in Stockholm in a note. The Riksbank will start cutting rates in February, he said.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development yesterday slashed its forecast for Swedish economic expansion next year to 1.3 percent from 3.1 percent in May, citing slower growth in exports and consumer spending.

“New orders to the manufacturing industry have fallen over the past few months and the assessment of the size of order books has become more negative,” Sweden’s National Institute of Economic Research, which publishes the confidence survey, said in a statement on Nov. 24. “Output volume is expected to remain roughly unchanged in the next few months.”

Companies

Sweden’s Volvo AB, the world’s second-largest truckmaker, on Oct. 25 said there been a “slight slowdown” in Europe, forecasting industry-wide sales will drop 10 percent in the region next year. Europe is likely to continue to stay weak in 2012, SKF AB, the world’s largest maker of ball bearings, said on Nov. 17 after the previous month forecasting demand for its products and services in the last three months of the year will likely be “slightly lower” than in the third quarter.

Sweden has reduced its debt burden since the global financial crisis started in 2007, and will post a 0.1 percent budget surplus this year and be in balance next, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development forecast yesterday. The economy surged 5.6 percent in 2010, which was the most in the European Union.

Sweden’s general government debt will dwindle to 35.9 percent of GDP next year, compared with 90.6 percent for the euro area, the OECD said. The economy, home to companies such as wireless network maker Ericsson AB and appliance maker Electrolux AB, will expand 4.1 percent in 2011, more than twice the 1.6 percent rate in the euro area, the group said.

--Editors: Jonas Bergman, Tasneem Brogger.

To contact the reporter on this story: Johan Carlstrom in Stockholm at jcarlstrom@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jonas Bergman in Stockholm at jbergman@bloomberg.net


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