ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece's finance ministry expects its economy will shrink by up to 3.8 percent in 2013, beating a 4.2 percent contraction forecast by its international lenders, financial daily Naftemporiki reported on Thursday without citing sources.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said last week he believed the 2013 slump would be smaller than forecast and economic pain would ease next year.

Naftemporiki said Athens also expected a return to growth next year at a rate above the 0.6 percent forecast. The finance ministry was not immediately available for comment.

Greece's economy, stuck in a sixth straight year of recession, shrank 6.4 percent in 2012. Achieving a shallower contraction than forecast would help Athens meet the fiscal targets of its 240 billion euro bailout by the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

In a sign the long slump may be easing, the economy contracted 3.8 percent in the second quarter of this year, helped by tourism, in the narrowest annual decline in nearly three years.

Naftemporiki said Athens planned to present its new estimates to the troika of EU, IMF and ECB inspectors who are due in Athens on Sept 22. to assess the country's progress in carrying out reforms.

(Reporting by Lefteris Papadimas; Writing by Karolina Tagaris; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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