Statistics Body Says GDP Grew 8.1%

The country's economy expanded last year at the fastest pace since 2000, exceeding the government's forecast.

Gross domestic product growth reached an annual 8.1 percent, compared with a revised 7.4 percent rate in 2006, the State Statistics Service said Thursday. The government estimated economic growth reached 7.8 percent last year, Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said Wednesday.

Economists expected growth of 7.5 percent, according to the median forecast of 11 economists.

The country has entered its 10th consecutive year of growth, boosted by rising incomes and spending. The average wage increased an annual 16.2 percent, reaching 18,467 rubles ($754) per month in December.

Retail sales grew 15.2 percent in 2007, the year Starbucks, the world's largest coffee-shop chain, opened its first cafe in the country. Disposable income increased 10.4 percent last year, according to the State Statistics Service.