MADRID, April 24 (UPI) -- Spain's central bank said Thursday the country's gross domestic product grew by 0.4 percent for the first three months of the year, the fastest rate in six years.
The Spanish economy was growing slowly, helped largely by increased consumer spending and corporate investment, according to the Bank of Spain. The country saw sluggish growth in the fourth quarter of last year, but has been buoyed by faster growth last quarter, the fastest increase since the first quarter in 2008 when the financial crisis helped burst Spain's property bubble.
The Bank of Spain expects the economy to grow by 1.2 percent this year and by 1.7 percent in 2015, as per early calculations, which are based on preliminary data and subject to change.
"In the first quarter of 2014, the Spanish economy continued on a path of gradual recovery in the context of increasing normalisation on the financial markets and a gradual consolidation of the labour market," the central bank said.
Internal demand grew by 0.2 percent, spurred by private sector spending, but also a small increase in public spending. External demand, which has been strong, grew at a slower pace than in recent quarters.
Unemployment continues to be the biggest problem for the economy striking to a high 25 percent, while youth unemployment has stuck around the 50 percent mark. According to the Eurostat survey, every region in Spain has a higher unemployment rate than the European average of 10.8 percent.