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APIA, Samoa (July 12, 1999 - PACNEWS)---The Samoan economy performed strongly in May according to selected economic indicators, the Central Bank has announced.

"There was a significant jump (26 percent) in tourist arrivals in May, associated with the Independence celebration activities in early June," the bank said.

"For the first five months of the year tourism earnings were $ST 44 million (US$ 15.7 million), a seven percent increase over the same period last year."

According to the bank, provisional figures indicate that private remittances rose 38 percent in May for a total of $ST 40.7 million (US$ 14.5 million) in the first five months of the year; a one percent drop compared to the same period of last year.

Export earnings also doubled in May, while imports fell, reducing the trade deficit by 19 percent to $ST 18.6 million (US $6.6 million).

The bank said net foreign assets of $ST 161.7 million (US$ 57.7 million) in May was sufficient to cover 5.7 months of imports, compared to 7.7 months in May last year.

"Demand for funds was strong in May as commercial banks’ lending rates to the private sector and public institutions rose by four percent (US$ 2.5 million) following a one percent increase in April."

The average level of consumer prices rose by 0.4 percent, due mainly to price increases in such local produce as young taro leaves, breadfruit, cucumber, pumpkin and tomato, as well as fresh fish and cocoa.

Inflation, on an annual basis fell, reaching 1.1 percent at the end of May, from 1.6 percent at the end of April.

In May the tala depreciated against all currencies in the currency basket except for the New Zealand dollar.

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