Thu, Mar 28, 2013 - Page 15 News List

Vietnam GDP growth slows in Q1 as banks struggle

SLUMP:Bank lending shrank in the first two months of the year as corporate expansion and consumer spending slowed, while construction was hurt by weak property demand

Bloomberg

Vietnam’s growth slowed in the first quarter, putting pressure on the government to revive bank lending in an economy hobbled by bad debt.

GDP expanded 4.89 percent in the first three months of the year from the same period a year earlier, the General Statistics Office in Hanoi said yesterday.

That compares with a previously reported 5.44 percent pace in the final quarter of last year and the median estimate of 5.2 percent in a Bloomberg survey of 10 economists.

Growth in the first quarter of last year was revised to 4.75 percent, the Statistics Office said.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung approved last month a master plan to revamp the economy after a credit slump dampened corporate expansion and consumer spending, while a weak property market hurt construction.

Vietnamese bank lending contracted in the first two months of this year after growing 9 percent last year, which was the slowest pace in at least two decades.

The monetary authority this week cut its policy interest rates, the seventh such reduction since the start of last year, after inflation slowed to 6.64 percent this month. The refinancing rate is now 8 percent compared with 15 percent at the end of 2011.

The benchmark VN Index rose 0.5 percent as of the mid-day break in trading as Asian shares climbed on US economic data. The Vietnamese dong gained 0.1 percent to 20,935 per US dollar.

Vietnam’s economy grew 5.03 percent last year, the slowest pace since 1999, and the World Bank predicts expansion of 5.5 percent this year.

That would mark the first time in at least two decades that the nation expanded less than 6 percent for three straight years.

Retail sales increased 11.7 percent in the first quarter from the same period a year earlier, slowing from a 21.8 percent pace in the same period a year earlier, the Statistics Office also said yesterday.

The struggling economy and labor market cut into purchasing power, the agency said in a summary.

Dung has appointed Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Vu Van Ninh and central bank Governor Nguyen Van Binh to oversee a panel to restructure banks by 2015.

An asset management company will be set up by the end of this month to resolve bad debt, according to Le Xuan Nghia, a member of the National Financial and Monetary Policy Advisory Council.

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