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MADRID: The Spanish economy grew by over three percent in 2017 for the third year in a row, official data showed Tuesday, as a record year for tourism and booming exports contained the impact of the political crisis sparked by Catalonia's independence push.

Spain's economy expanded by 3.1 percent last year, according to preliminary data from national institute INE, one of the fastest rates in the euro zone and in line with forecasts from the government and the central bank.

"The economic situation is good at the moment, it is our third year of growth above three percent," Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said during an interview with public television TVE when asked about the figures.

The expansion was fuelled by solid household consumer demand, a record tourism year which saw Spain overtake the United States as the world's number two destination and a surge in exports.

Catalonia's secession crisis, meanwhile, had less impact than feared.

Output expanded 0.7 percent in the fourth quarter, which encompassed a period of instability that kicked off on October 1 when Catalonia held a banned independence referendum, down slightly from 0.8 percent registered in the third quarter.

Economy Minister Luis de Guindos warned earlier this month that a slowdown in economic activity in Catalonia due the crisis would have cost Spain already around one billion euros ($1.2 billion) in lost growth.

Catalonia, which accounts for about one-fifth of Spain's economic output, was rattled by massive street demonstrations following the independence referendum which frightened off tourists and turned of foreign investors.

Spain's central government predicts the economy will expand by 2.3 percent in 2018, but says growth could come in at around three percent again if the wealthy northeastern region returns to "normality" and ends its separatist push.

 

 

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Press), 2018

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