Newspaper article International New York Times

Eurozone Improves, with Surprise French Surge ; as Bloc's Economy Rose in First Quarter, Greece and Finland Contracted

Newspaper article International New York Times

Eurozone Improves, with Surprise French Surge ; as Bloc's Economy Rose in First Quarter, Greece and Finland Contracted

Article excerpt

The gross domestic product of the 19 nations that form the euro currency bloc grew 0.4 percent in the period, but the two countries slid into recession.

The eurozone economy grew modestly in the first quarter, an official report showed on Wednesday, as a surprisingly strong surge in France helped to compensate for a slowdown in Germany.

The economies of Finland and Greece, however, contracted for a second straight quarter, meeting the layman's definition of a recession.

Greece, crushed by the budget austerity demanded by its European partners in order to obtain bailout funds, had barely started to recover from five years of recession. The Finnish economy has been hurt in part by the decline in trade with Russia after the West imposed sanctions against President Vladimir V. Putin's government over the crisis in Ukraine.

Over all, the gross domestic product of the 19 nations that form the euro currency bloc grew 0.4 percent in the period from January to March from the prior three months, when it grew 0.3 percent, Eurostat, the statistical agency of the European Union, reported from Luxembourg.

The European Union, with 500 million consumers, is the world's biggest mature market and its biggest exporter. Better growth in the region would help to keep the global economy expanding as worries arise about a slowdown in China and the United States.

The bloc's economy has been expanding since the first half of 2013. Economists credit the happy combination of a weak euro, low oil prices and the European Central Bank's effort to drive down interest rates with aggressive monetary policy for keeping the expansion alive.

Eurostat said the eurozone's first-quarter growth worked out to an annualized rate of 1.6 percent, sharply higher than the 0.2 percent annual growth in the United States in the same period.

The German economy grew 0.3 percent at a quarterly pace, slowing from a 0.7 percent rate in the last three months of last year and slightly disappointing market expectations of a 0. …

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