France and Germany drag eurozone out of recession

The eurozone moved out of recession in the second quarter, helped by better-than-expected growth in the region’s two largest economies.

Following a record six quarters of contraction, the 17-member bloc grew by 0.3 per cent in the three months to June, ahead of economists’ forecasts of 0.2 per cent.

Germany’s economy grew by 0.7 per cent, compared with predictions of 0.6 per cent. The largest expansion in more than a year was mainly driven by domestic private and public consumption.

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France expanded 0.5 per cent, much faster than the 0.2 per cent reading expected by the market, to post its strongest quarterly growth since early 2011. The expansion was driven by consumer spending and industrial output.

However, Spain’s economy fell by 0.1 per cent on the quarter, while Italy and the Netherlands both dropped by 0.2 per cent.

Portugal posted a 1.1 per cent expansion, showing the fastest growth in the eurozone during the period.

Olli Rehn, the European Commission’s economic chief, said: “This slightly more positive data is welcome – but there is no room for any complacency whatsoever. I hope there will be no premature, self-congratulatory statements suggesting ‘the crisis is over’.

“For we all know that there are still substantial obstacles to overcome – the growth figures remain low and the tentative signs of growth are still fragile.”

Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at IHS Global Insight, said: “While the second-quarter expansion was modestly better than expected, the eurozone still faces a tough job developing recovery momentum.

“We expect eurozone GDP to contract by 0.5 per cent in 2013 and then grow by 0.7 per cent in 2014.”