The Dutch economy once again grew slightly faster in the first quarter of 2016 than in the previous quarter. The rate of growth matched expectations. Moreover, it was equal to the figure for the eurozone.
According to provisional figures, gross domestic product (GDP) rose in the first quarter by ½% in relation to the previous quarter (qoq). This was more than in the last quarter of 2015, when GDP increased by ¼%. However, the latter figure was depressed to some extent by the low gas consumption due to the spell of mild weather in November and December.
More domestic spending – more exports
Most spending was higher than in the previous quarter. Consumer spending was up again after two quarters of stagnation. However, it is not clear to what extent this figure has been corrected for the leap day. (However, the GDP figure has been corrected for this extra day.) Investment rose too, albeit by less than in the previous quarter. The slowdown was due to the decline in business investment in machinery and in means of transport. As investment in the second category had in fact risen sharply in the previous quarter, the slowdown was not unexpected. There was also a further marked rise in investment in residential property. This reflects the sustained recovery of the housing market.
Exports too performed well. This held true for the export of both goods and services. Total imports rose by about the same amount as exports. As a result, there was a better balance between imports and exports than in previous quarters, when imports tended to outpace exports.
Outlook: economic growth of 1¾% this year
We expect the economic growth to be sustained. However, growth abroad is only moderate, which is putting a brake on the increase of Dutch exports. The foreign economic picture is expected to improve gradually in the course of the year. For 2016 as a whole we anticipate an average growth rate of 1.7%, which is rather less than the 2015 figure of 2%.
The uncertainties surrounding the global economy, particularly the emerging economies, still pose a risk to the Dutch economy.