Ireland, which has avoided joining the rest of the euro zone in recession thanks to its strong export sector, has forecast that gross domestic product (GDP) grew for a second consecutive year in 2012, at a slightly slower pace of 0.9 percent.
Ahead of full-year GDP figures due next month, the value of goods exports rose to their highest level in a decade but a dip in the final quarter put the annual increase at just 0.9 percent, the Central Statistics Agency said.
That was lower than the 1.7 percent growth recorded in 2011 when goods exports rose back above 90 billion euros ($121 billion)and the 4.5 percent jump in 2010 when they quickly returned to growth amid Ireland's deep financial crisis.
"These figures are disappointing but services exports were the main driver last year, and they are going to be the main driver again this year," said Alan McQuaid, economist at Merrion Stockbrokers.
"If you look at the make up of where we are at, the consumer probably performed better than people assumed in the latter half of the year, and against that the goods exports were a bit weaker. I still think they will get there with forecasts."
Irish exports, which were equivalent to 107 percent of GDP last year compared with 30 percent in Spain, are split almost evenly between goods and services, with the latter growing 9.5 percent on a volume basis in the first three quarters of 2012.
The services sector has continued to perform strongly since, with the monthly Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) growing at its fastest pace in 5-1/2 years last month.
A 1.8 percent annual dip in chemicals exports accounted for the sluggish growth in the goods' figures. Chemicals account for 60 percent of all goods exports' and have been hit by the loss of lucrative patents among the large number of pharmaceutical multinationals based in Ireland. (Reuters)