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Singapore's Economy Grows 7.6% in First Quarter, Forecast Raised

Singapore's trade-driven economy grew faster than expected on the back of a property and services sector boom, prompting the government to raise its 2007 GDP growth forecast to 5.0-7.0%, from 4.5-6.5%.

Economic growth came in at an annualized rate of 7.6% in the first quarter, after seasonal adjustments, the Ministry of Trade and Industry said in a statement, "The Singapore economy started on a strong note," the ministry said, adding that "economic growth is expected to remain healthy in 2007."

Analysts in a Reuters poll had expected the S$210 billion (US$138 billion) economy to grow an annualized 6.1%, after seasonal adjustments, below the government's advance estimate, due to sluggish manufacturing.

First-quarter growth also beat the government's advance estimate of 7.2% announced on April 10, which was based largely on data from January and February and reflected surging tourist arrivals, fast-growing financial services, and construction work on the first of two multi-billion-dollar casinos.

From a year earlier, the economy grew 6.1% in the first quarter, beating the 5.7% median forecast of 13 economists and just above the government's 6.0% advance estimate. David Cohen, an economist with Action Economics, said stronger growth in the construction sector had offset the contraction in manufacturing on an annualized basis.

"The data show that Singapore's strong economic performance is continuing despite a recent spate of weak manufacturing and NODX figures. It does show there is no need to be overly concerned," Cohen told Reuters.

Singapore's economy grew by a robust 7.9 percent in 2006.

Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's former prime minister, told Reuters last month that growth would be at the upper end of the government's forecast, provided U.S. consumer spending stays resilient.

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