UPDATE 1-Cuban economy growing 4 pct, aided by detente with U.S.

lunes 22 de junio de 2015 11:51 GYT

(Adds details, analyst comment)

By Daniel Trotta and Marc Frank

HAVANA, June 22 (Reuters) - Detente with the United States appears to have helped Cuba's communist economy, which officials expect to grow 4 percent in the first half of 2015, in line with official forecasts.

Economy Minister Marino Murrillo delivered an update on the economy to the cabinet on Friday that was covered in official media on Monday, attributing growth to better sugar production, manufacturing, construction and trade.

Gross domestic product (GDP) growth was up from 1.3 percent, the latest official estimate for all of 2014. In December, Cuba aggressively forecast 4 percent growth for 2015 just days after announcing detente with the United States, apparently banking on ongoing market-oriented reforms and improved relations with its longtime nemesis.

"While Cuban economic methodology is different from ours, these numbers would seem consistent with anecdotal evidence," said Pedro Freyre, who chairs the international practice at the U.S.-based Ackerman law firm. "The sheer number of U.S. travelers to the island alone have had an obvious positive impact."

Cuba previously announced tourism, the country's second-largest industry, was up 15 percent over the first four months of the year versus the same period of 2014.

Three million visitors arrived in Cuba in 2014, including 100,000 Americans and 350,000 Cuban-Americans.

Leisure travel is still banned for Americans but U.S. President Barack Obama in January eased restrictions on sanctioned visits such as cultural and religious exchanges.   Continuación...