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GDP contracts by 2.4 percent in Q2

Hungary's economy contracted by an annual 2.4 percent in the second quarter, a first reading of data released by the Central Statistical Office (KSH) on Wednesday shows. The data comes as a surprise, as the majority of experts expected yr-on-yr expansion in the second quarter or at least an increase compared to the first quarter of the year.

Hungary’s gross domestic product decreased by 2.4% according to raw data and by 2.3% according to seasonally and calendar adjusted and reconciled data in the 2nd quarter of 2023 compared to the corresponding period of the previous year, KSH said. Compared to the previous quarter, the economic performance diminished by 0.3% according to seasonally and calendar adjusted and reconciled data.

The economic performance was 2.4% lower according to raw data and 2.3% lower according to seasonally and calendar adjusted and reconciled data in the 2nd quarter of 2023 than in the same period of the previous year.1

The largest contributors to the decrease in the economic performance were industry and market services, within which mainly transportation and storage as well as wholesale and retail trade. The good performance of agriculture lowered the reduction. The decrease in the value added of services was partly offset by a significant growth in human health and social work activities, the performance of which approximated the level before the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the 1st half of 2023, gross domestic product was 1.7% lower than in the corresponding period of the previous year.

Commenting on the data, the finance ministry said in a statement that the Hungarian economy would return to growth in the second half of the year and may do better than the EU average next year, notwithstanding the war in Ukraine and “Brussels sanctions”.

“The economy’s fundamentals are stable,” the statement said, noting record employment and a jobless rate among lowest in the European Union. Further, it noted the strong performance in agriculture and foreign trade and falling inflation.

Whereas Hungary, it added, had not received EU recovery funds owed to it, the economy was 4 percent above the pre-pandemic level, “while the EU average is 3.1 percent”.

The statement said the economy was weighed down by the European Commission’s refusal to release EU funds to the country. Even so, Hungary recorded 7.2 percent growth in 2021 and 4.6 percent growth in 2022, thereby outperforming the EU average from the pandemic baseline.

The ministry pointed to higher real earnings and consumption, growth in industry and an improving foreign trade balance, all of which would boost the economy.

Thanks to government measures, inflation is expected to fall to single digits before the end of the year, the statement said.

Meanwhile, the Hungarian investment rate, at 28 percent, “is currently the highest in the European Union”, it said.

Minister of Economic Development Marton Nagy in a statement emphasised the link between the GDP data and the war in Ukraine and sanctions, which “caused a drop in consumption and a slowdown in investments”. Other external impacts included the stagnation of the German economy, he said.

But the Q2 figure, he added, represented “the bottom of the negative economic cycle” and the economy was set to return to growth swiftly in the third and fourth quarter.

He noted an abundance of new foreign investments and a high jobs level of almost 4.8 million, as well as a robust vehicle and battery production and “soaring exports”.

Nagy said the government aimed to avoid recession in the full year and targeted 4 percent growth in 2024.

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