The Norwegian mainland economy grew at a slightly faster pace than economists had expected in the fourth quarter of 2023, Statistics Norway (SSB) data showed on Wednesday.

The October-December period saw a rise in mainland GDP of 0.2% compared with the July-September period, while economists polled by Reuters had expected growth of 0.1%.

"Several industries contributed to the increase in the quarter, including financial and insurance activities and health and care services," SSB said in a statement.

Mainland GDP, which excludes the often volatile impact of Norway's oil and gas production, is the most commonly watched measure of how the Norwegian economy is performing.

Full-year growth in 2023 stood at 0.7%, while the 2022 expansion was revised to 3.7% from 3.8% seen previously.

"The economic development throughout the year were characterised by increased prices, higher interest rates and reduced household demand," SSB said.

In December, the final month of the fourth quarter, mainland GDP contracted by 0.1%, in line with predictions in the poll.

The Norwegian crown currency strengthened against the euro to trade at 11.41 at 0709 GMT from 11.42 just ahead of the data release.

The central bank last month kept its benchmark interest rate on hold

at 4.50% and said the cost of borrowing would likely stay at that level "for some time ahead". (Reporting by Terje Solsvik, editing by Gwladys Fouche)