KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia said Wednesday the economy grew a faster-than-expected 6.4 percent in the latest quarter, its best showing in more than two years and a likely boost for the government as elections near.
The central bank, Bank Negara, also said in a statement that Southeast Asia's third-largest economy rose 5.6 percent for full-year 2012, exceeding an earlier government forecast of 5.0 percent.
The 6.4 percent growth in the fourth quarter of 2012 was up from a 5.2 percent expansion achieved in the same quarter the previous year due to steady domestic demand, Bank Negara.
"Total (private sector) investment remained robust and was the main driver of growth during the quarter," it said.
Prime Minister Najib Razak, who will face what are expected to be tough elections by June, has been pumping money into the economy through investment drives and cash handouts.
"The stronger growth in the first half of the year reflected the effects of the various government transfers to households disbursed during the period," Bank Negara noted.
Malaysia's manufacturing and services sector led growth in the fourth quarter, it said.
Domestic consumption offset sluggish demand from abroad as key trade partners, such as the US and China, struggle with the global economic slowdown.
Bank Negara forecast further growth for the export-dependent economy in 2013 on continued "firm" domestic demand and a "gradual improvement" in overseas markets, while not offering an expected growth rate.
The government has previously forecast the economy will expand 4.5-5.5 percent in 2013.
The 6.4 percent growth performance in the latest quarter was the most robust since the second quarter of 2010, when the economy expanded 8.9 percent.