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EghtesadOnline: Iran's gross domestic product saw a contraction of -3.8 during the three quarters of the last fiscal year (March 21-Dec. 21, 2018) compared to the corresponding period of the year before, the Statistical Center of Iran's latest report shows.

Economic growth, excluding oil, stood at -1.9%, the report added.

A sectoral breakdown of growth rates in the report shows only the services sector experienced a growth of 0.6% during the period.

The industrial and agricultural sectors contracted by 7.9% and 2.1% respectively, Financial Tribune reported.

SCI's previous reading of Iran's economic growth showed GDP during the first half of the year (March 21-Sept. 22) registered a 0.4% rise. Excluding the oil sector, the rate stood at 0.3%. 

Only the services sector experienced a growth of 2.3% in H1 2018-19. The sectors of agriculture and industry saw contractions of 2.5% and 1.2% respectively.

In the fiscal 2014-15, Iran’s economy emerged with a 3% growth after two years of recession when the economy contracted 5.8% and 1.9% back to back, according to the Central Bank of Iran.

SCI and CBI both release periodic reports on Iran's macroeconomic data. The results, however, often differ due to different methods used in calculations.

Growth in 2015-16 has been put at -1.6% by CBI and 0.9% by SCI.

CBI has put 2016-17 growth at 12.5% while SCI says it was near 8.3%.



Sanctions’ Oil Impact

The weak performance of the economy, as reflected in the latest SCI report, is mainly traced back to last year's reimposition of sanctions by US President Donald Trump who unilaterally walked out of the nuclear deal Iran had signed with world powers, including the US, in 2015.

The first round of renewed US sanctions reimposed on August 7 prohibits Iran's purchase of US dollars and precious metals, part of a larger move that attempts to cut the country off from the international financial system. A second tranche of sanctions on Iran's oil and gas sector took effect on Nov. 4.

Oil, incidentally Iran's main source of revenue, has taken the brunt of sanctions.

Exports slumped to 1.08 million bpd in November—a fall of almost 1.34 million bpd since May when the US withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal, according to Platts cFlow trade flow data.

Sources have pointed to a huge fall in Iranian crude production because the OPEC member has been utilizing its reserves. Data from Ursa, a geospatial analytics startup, which tracks oil inventories using satellite data, shows that Iran's crude inventories have fallen by almost 25% since early January, led by Kharg Island, the country's main export terminal, which saw a 30% decline in March, S&P Global Platts reported.

"This suggests Iran's oil production has fallen below exports, forcing barrels from storage to cover any shortfall," said Geoffrey Craig, an energy analyst at Ursa. 

"With the US granting exemptions to some of Iran's biggest customers, exports seem to have fared better than anticipated."

Shipping and tanker tracking data show Iranian oil exports, which have been laboring under US sanctions since late last year, have recovered close to prior levels, supported by unflinching demand from China and South Korea.

Crude and condensate shipments from the Persian Gulf producer surged 12% to 1.70 million bpd in March, the highest since October, as key buyers scrambled to pick up more volumes before US sanctions waivers expire in early May.

Exports could fall in the coming months, if the US tightens its grip on Iran crude purchases from those eight countries, according to analysts.

The market is still searching for clarity, but many believe Iran's biggest customers will likely get an extension to the waivers.



IMF, World Bank Estimates, Forecasts

The International Monetary Fund has forecast a deepening recession for Iran's economy this year projecting a real GDP growth of -6% in 2019 after a contraction of 3.9% the year before.

In its newly released "World Economic Outlook" report, the IMF sees growth will come back at a meager rate of 0.2% in 2020 before increasing to 1.1% in 2024.

The IMF report came a few days after the World Bank downgraded Iran's economic growth estimates and forecasts in a new report that put the Islamic Republic's real GDP growth for 2018 at -1.6%.

The World Bank forecast that the rate will further contract to -3.8% in 2019 before an expansion of 0.9% in 2020 and 1% in 2021. The report also estimates Iran's real GDP per capita growth stood at -2.6% in 2018. Forecasts for 2019, 2020 and 2021 have been put at -4.8%, 0% and 0.1% respectively.


Iran Statistical Center of Iran economic growth gross domestic product contraction