Germany’s strong export performance helped the economy of the 17 countries that use the euro narrowly avoid a recession in the first quarter of the year, official figures showed Tuesday.
Eurostat, the EU’s statistics office, found that the euro zone economy was flat when compared to the previous three-month period, though the figures provided clear evidence of the contrasting fortunes within the single currency bloc.
The flat outcome confounded expectations for a 0.2-per-cent decline, which would have put the euro zone back into recession – officially defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth. In the last quarter of 2011, the euro zone contracted by 0.3 per cent.
Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, was primarily behind the better-than-expected performance as a strong export performance helped it grow by 0.5 per cent.
The overall flat performance hides huge disparities in the euro zone, with the debt-ridden countries mired in recession.
Though a recession has been avoided for now, the figures will likely be used as evidence by those urging more growth in the euro zone. French President François Hollande is going to Berlin later Tuesday to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss the state of the European economy just hours after his inauguration. Kick-starting economic growth was a central plank of Mr. Hollande’s electoral platform.
The figures are subject to change as Eurostat collects more figures. Several countries, including Ireland and Slovenia, have yet to release quarterly figures and for Greece there are only year-on-year comparisons.