Irish economy grows by 0.9% in 2012: official data

Ireland's bailed-out economy grew by 0.9 percent in 2012 but stagnated in the final quarter of the year, official data for the troubled eurozone nation showed on Thursday.

"Preliminary estimates indicate that GDP (gross domestic product) in volume terms increased by 0.9 percent for the year 2012," said a statement from the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

"This is the second year in succession in which GDP showed an increase over the previous year following three years of declines... during 2008 to 2010."

The annual figure was in-line with the government's own forecast, but was slightly ahead of the 0.6 percent many economists had predicted.

Exports from the island nation continued to drive the economy in 2012, recording a net growth of 4.4 billion euros ($5.68 billion).

This represents growth in exports for the third successive year while imports remained relatively unchanged on 2011 levels.

The Irish economy meanwhile recorded zero growth in the fourth quarter of last year, compared with the previous three months, according to the CSO.

It managed to grow by 1.4 percent in 2011 after it was rescued by an 85-billion-euro bailout from the International Monetary Fund and the European Union in late 2010.

Thursday's data also revealed that personal consumption, which accounts for approximately two thirds of domestic demand, fell by 0.9 percent last year, though that was less than the 2.4 percent drop posted in 2011.

Government expenditure was also down 3.7 percent on 2011 in line with a policy of spending cuts announced by Dublin to regain control of the public finances.

Ireland, once known as the 'Celtic Tiger' economy for its double-digit growth spanning a decade from the mid-1990s, has contracted sharply in recent years, hit by soaring state debt, a property market meltdown, the global banking crisis and surging unemployment.