Exports reaching saturation point

Industrial output and imports fall but consumer prices stubbornly continue to rise

Official figures released on Monday by the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) show a slowdown in the growth of exports and a further reduction in industrial output, although inflation appears to be going down despite soaring fuel costs.

The sole positive aspect of the Greek economy in the last year or so had been the considerable growth of exports, but this is now seemingly reaching saturation point as it only expanded by 1.4 percent in February compared with the same month last year.

The value of exports, not including oil products, amounted to just over 1.25 billion euros, against over 1.23 billion in February 2011. In the period from March 2011 to February 2012 the total value of exports grew by 6.5 percent from the March 2010 - February 2011 period.

At the same time the reduction of imports continued at a rapid pace almost exclusively due to the drop in domestic demand. The total value of imports, not including oil products, came to 2.35 billion euros in February, down from 2.72 billion in the same month last year, shrinking by 13.7 percent. In the March 2011 - February 2012 period imports contracted by 13.3 percent from the year before.

Also in February, the general index of industrial output showed an 8.3 percent decline from the same month in 2011.

In March the consumer price index (CPI) continued its southbound course for a sixth consecutive month, amounting to 1.7 percent on an annual basis. This was despite the fact that a number of key commodities such as fruit, electricity, oil, natural gas etc posted price rises, further aggravating the already difficult financial state of many households around the country.

In the first three months of the year inflation came to 2 percent, showing a strong resistance to pressures from the rapid decline in consumers? disposable income. For the CPI to go down, in line with reductions in salaries and pensions, prices will have to be slashed dramatically in the coming months.

The most notable price hikes from March 2011 were in natural gas (up 21.5 percent), heating oil (19.1 percent) and electricity (13.9 percent), while potatoes were 24.6 percent cheaper, hotel rates dropped by 9.3 percent and audiovisual equipment prices fell by 5.3 percent.