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Venezuela reports key economic data; GDP plunges 22.5% in Q3 '18

Caracas

VENEZUELA'S central bank published key economic data for the first time since 2015, reporting figures on gross domestic product (GDP), external accounts and inflation that might be expected from an economy devastated by war rather than one boasting the world's largest oil reserves.

Inflation spiralled out of control to 130,060 per cent in 2018 and hit 862.6 per cent in 2017, while the economy shrank 22.5 per cent during the third quarter of 2018 from same period in 2017, the bank said in a report posted on its website on Tuesday.

The report on the economy was the bank's first major publication of indicators in over three years, illustrating in painful detail the depth of Venezuela's collapse. In the absence of official figures, private economists and observers have tried to gauge the rise in prices, using indicators such as the cost of cars, black market US dollars and even groceries such as eggs.

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Nonetheless, while the publication describes an economy in the throes of an acute crisis, the data struck some long-time and informed Venezuela observers such as Asdrubal Oliveros, director of Ecoanalitica consulting firm in Caracas, as "implausible".

"Obviously, inflation is underestimated," he said by telephone, reacting to the bank's figures of 196.6 per cent, 114.4 per cent, 34.8 per cent and 33.8 per cent for January, February, March and April.

As a comparison, Bloomberg's Cafe Con Leche Index shows Venezuela's annual inflation rate at 144,637 per cent whereas the International Monetary Fund (IMF) projects a rate of over 1,000,000 per cent for this year.

After Venezuela suspended the publication of growth and inflation data in the midst of the unprecedented crisis, the IMF warned of possible sanctions for withholding statistics and the central bank complied by sharing the figures with the Washington-based lender late last year.

As for output, the central bank's third-quarter 2018 GDP figure is near the IMF's projection for 2019 - the fund has 2019 output falling 25 per cent - as are the 2016 and 2017 GDP data, with Venezuela reporting drops of 17 per cent and 15.7 per cent respectively. BLOOMBERG