GDP expanded by 5.0% YoY in 1Q17, much higher than the market consensus at 3.5%. The rebound was driven by private consumption while net trade had a significantly positive contribution with improving export performance. The data show continuation of the recovery that started in 4Q16 at a strong pace. Economic activity was higher than expected in 1Q with 5.0% YoY growth while market expectations, according to a Bloomberg Survey were at c.3.5% with a range between 0.8% and +4.8% vs our call at 3.6%. Accordingly, following a contraction in 3Q16 for the first time since the global crisis, growth has maintained an improving trend, pulling annual GDP growth to 3.0% in 1Q17 from 2.9% in 2016. In seasonal and calendar adjusted terms (SA), GDP expanded 1.4% QoQ, down from 3.4% QoQ a quarter ago, though showing that the recovery has remained in place. 12-month cumulative adjusted GDP growth accelerated to 1.1% from 0.9% on a sequential basis.
Looking at the expenditure breakdown, we see that private consumption was again the main contributor to growth at 5.1% YoY in the first quarter of the year. This shows the improvement in consumer sentiment in recent months with stabilisation in the currency and the impact of stimulus measures such as VAT cuts in some consumer durables and social security premium cuts as well as easing macro-prudential measures, ie, extending the maximum maturity of consumer loans, arrangements in credit card installments, etc. Fixed investment gained further strength despite the political uncertainty ahead of the referendum and recent CBT tightening with 2.2% YoY growth. This is attributable to significant lending acceleration as credit growth (13-week MA, FX-adjusted and annualised) has converged to 25% on the back of contributions from the Guarantee Fund. Public consumption was up by 9.4% YoY with the introduction of stimulus packages and with increased public spending, providing a stronger contribution to growth vs 4Q. We think this will likely reverse in the second half of the year. Also, exports were up by 10.6% due to the strong economic growth in the EU and recovery in trade with Russia while imports recorded a mere 0.8% increase with the result that net trade provided the first positive contribution to the headline since 2015. Finally, inventory depletion shaved a significant 2.3ppt from GDP growth, supporting the view that production should improve in the coming period. All in all, the improvement was relatively broad-based in 1Q17 showing a further rebound after the robust performance in 4Q16 following a significantly weak 3Q16 with implications of the failed coup attempt in July on household and corporate sector behaviour.
Among the sectors, manufacturing stood out with a 1.1ppt contribution with a second strong reading after the drop in 3Q16, while construction was another driver with a 1.6ppt (including real estate activities) addition to the headline. Overall, after economic growth rose back into positive territory in the last quarter of 2016 following political tensions and a shock to the tourism sector, we saw across-the-board strength with further recovery in private consumption and net exports. For 2017, risks seem to be on the upside given the acceleration in activity in 2Q17 and low base effect of 3Q16. Recently released indicators hint at some further acceleration in 2Q17 economic activity, with higher PMI in tandem with rising CUR. Improvement in sectoral and consumer confidence after the referendum should also contribute to the recovery.