May 16, 2017 / 7:34 AM / 3 months ago

Finnish GDP up more than expected in first quarter

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finland's gross domestic product (GDP) rose 1.6 percent in the first quarter from the previous quarter, data showed on Tuesday, indicating the euro zone member was recovering from a decade-long stagnation faster than expected.

Finnish economic output is still below levels prior to the financial crisis of 2008 as exports have been hit by a string of problems including the decline of Nokia's (NOKIA.HE) former phone business, rigid labor markets and a recession in neighboring Russia.

A flash estimate by Statistic Finland showed first-quarter GDP was up 1.6 percent from the previous quarter and 2.8 percent higher than the previous year.

"These are very strong figures, above all forecasts ... One can assume that the economy will grow around 2 percent this year, which is the best pace in years for Finland, and above the euro zone average," said economist Juhana Brotherus from Hypo Bank.

Economists noted, however, that growth in March cooled down from January and February where figures were boosted by a peak in construction revenue, a one-off ship delivery and an exceptionally weak comparison period in exports.

"The economy may grow fast momentarily, but in longer term, there are no prerequisites for growth of 3 percent with the ageing population, low productivity and global economic landscape," Brotherus said.

So far, latest official growth forecasts by banks and the government vary from 1.2 to 1.8 percent for 2017 and from 1.0 to 2.0 percent for 2018.

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