Spain: PM says economy on track to expand 2.9 pct this year, and grow another 2.9 pct in 2016

Spain's prime minister says the country's economy is on track to grow 2.9 percent this year and expand an additional 2.9 percent in 2016.

Mariano Rajoy gave the upbeat assessment a month before his party is expected to face a tough challenge in nationwide regional and local elections from the main opposition Socialist Party and two new parties attracting huge voter interest.

Rajoy's announcement Monday boosted the growth outlook from a 2.4 percent prediction for 2015 he issued in February.

Rajoy did not predict where he expects Spain's sky-high unemployment rate to be by the end of the year but said he expects the country will produce 500,000 new jobs.

The jobless rate stands at 23. 8 percent. It is more than double that for people under age 25.