June 13, 2017 / 2:32 PM / 5 months ago

Belgian central bank hikes 2017 growth forecast to 1.6 pct

BRUSSELS, June 13 (Reuters) - Belgium’s economy will grow faster than previously forecast after a strong first quarter, the country’s central bank said on Tuesday, predicting a pick-up of household spending and investment from 2016.

The sixth largest economy in the euro zone will expand by 1.6 percent this year, the Belgian central bank said, compared with 1.2 percent expansion last year. The bank previously forecast growth of 1.4 percent in 2017.

The bank also forecast the same 1.6 percent growth in 2018 and said the economy would slow slightly to 1.5 percent in 2019.

The upgrades follow raised staff projections by the European Central Bank last week for the 19-country euro zone to 1.9 percent in 2017, 1.8 in 2018 and 1.7 in 2019.

The European Commission has forecast Belgian growth this year of 1.5 percent and 1.7 percent in 2018, both just below its forecasts for the euro zone.

Belgium’s central bank forecast that the country’s unemployment rate would steadily decline to 7.2 percent in 2019 from 8.6 percent in 2015, thanks to economic growth and with greater participation of older people in the job market. (Reporting By Philip Blenkinsop; Editing Alissa de Carbonnel)

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