The Russian economy contracted by 1.9 percent in the first quarter year-on-year, the statistics service said, hit by sanctions and falling energy prices. The reading was broadly in line with estimates given by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and officials from the Economy Ministry over the past month, although some analysts said the figure was better than expected.
Russia's economy has slowed sharply since early last year because of Western sanctions over the Ukraine crisis and a sharp slide in global prices for oil, the country's chief export. However, a recent stabilisation of financial conditions, reflected in a rebound of the rouble, has fueled hopes that the worst of the crisis is over, helped by a partial recovery in oil prices and February's peace deal in Ukraine.
April macroeconomic data due next week, including industrial output, investment and retail sales, will shed light on whether the contraction is accelerating or less severe than expected. "Economists polled by Reuters at the end of last month predicted the economy would contract by 4.1 percent in 2015. The government officially forecasts a 3 percent contraction but officials have said that this now looks over-pessimistic.
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