ATHENS, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Greece's current account deficit
narrowed last year to its lowest level since the country joined
the euro, adding to evidence that the economy is slowly
responding to harsh austerity measures.
The gap narrowed by 73 percent last year to 5.58 billion
euros ($7.45 billion), helped by falling imports and lower
interest payments after a sovereign debt cut, the Bank of Greece said on Tuesday.
The current account deficit shrank to 2.9 percent of gross
domestic product (GDP) from 9.9 percent the previous year - its
lowest level since at least 1999, according to available data.
The current account balance is a key measure for how
competitive a nation's economy is and on whether it lives within
its means. The reading had deteriorated during Greece's
debt-fuelled economic boom to a record deficit of 14.7 percent
of GDP in 2008.
But a severe economic contraction, partly due to austerity
measures as part of the country's international bailout, has
narrowed the gap and may eliminate it in 2014, according to
The biggest part of the improvement in 2012 reflected
falling imports, as austerity-hurt businesses and households cut
down on their purchases of foreign machinery and consumer goods
that are not produced at home.
Imports, excluding oil products, dropped by 12 percent to
41.6 billion euros, according to central bank figures. Exports
of products, excluding fuels processed by the country's two
refineries, rose by a mere 3.8 percent over the same period to
Interest payments on Greece's sovereign debt dropped
sharply after a 75 percent writedown Athens imposed on private
sector bondholders back in March. The income account balance,
which reflects such payments, narrowed by 75 percent to 2.16
Tourism, the country's chief money spinner, was not much
help, falling by 4.6 percent to 10.02 billion euros. Arrivals
from Germany, Greece's biggest tourism market.
Greece's foreign exchange reserves stood at 5.5 billion
euros at the end of December, the Bank of Greece added.
KEY FIGURES (bln euros) 2012 2011
December -0.534 -2.143
November -0.850 -2.284
October -0.684 -1.469
September +0.775 -1.069
August +1.601 -0.103
July +0.642 -0.880
June -0.274 -1.598
Full-year -5.584 -20.634
source: Bank of Greece
($1 = 0.7490 euros)
(Reporting by Harry Papachristou)
Keywords: GREECE PAYMENTS/
(harry.Papachristou@thomsonreuters.com)(+30 210 33 76 455 or +30 6949 440 106)(Reuters Messaging: firstname.lastname@example.org@reuters.net)
Copyright Thomson Reuters 2013. All rights reserved.
The copying, republication or redistribution of Reuters News Content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Thomson Reuters.