MOSCOW, Sept 18 (Reuters) - Investment by Russian companies fell in August for the second time in three months, data showed on Wednesday, underscoring weak economic prospects and confounding economist expectations of an increase.
Capital investment, which is money put into tangible goods such as land, machinery or buildings, fell by 3.9 percent last month, the Federal Statistics Service said. Investment accounts for around a fifth of Russia's economy.
Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast a 1.5 percent rise in investment last month.
Government officials and economists alike have been pointing to low and stagnant investment as a major reason for the country's economic underperformance.
Earlier this year, the Economy Ministry cut its forecast for growth in fixed capital investment for 2013 to 4.6 percent from 6.5 percent.
Russia's GDP grew by 1.2 percent in the second quarter and has shown little improvement since. It is expected to grow by 1.8 percent this year - half the estimates seen at the beginning of the year.
August data also showed that unemployment remains near a record low, declining to 5.2 percent from 5.3 percent earlier .
While low unemployment is generally a sign of a healthy economy, the Russian central bank regards it as underlining the country's structural problems.
'For economic growth we need growth in labour productivity,' central bank head Elvira Nabiullina told reporters last week after the central bank kept key lending rates on hold and indicated that they may remain unchanged next month as well.
Russian real wages grew slightly less than expected last month, growing 5.9 percent year-on-year.
Retail sales, a barometer of Russian consumer confidence, came broadly in line with forecasts, rising by 4.0 percent in annual terms in August.
(Reporting by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Jason Bush and David Holmes) Keywords: RUSSIA ECONOMY/
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