BRUSSELS - Economic growth across the eurozone was stronger than expected at the end of 2013, according to official figures released Friday, raising hopes the recovery is gaining a foothold.
Gross domestic product grew by 0.3
percent in the October-December period from the previous quarter, said
Eurostat, the European Union's statistics office. That amounts to an annualized
rate of about 1.2 percent.
In the third quarter, growth was only
0.1 percent across the bloc, which counted 17 members before Latvia joined this
"While still far from dynamic, it
is a step back in the right direction," said analyst Howard Archer of IHS
The eurozone's recovery is important
to the world economy as Europeans are big buyers of goods from the United
States and Asia. Uncertainty over the bloc's financial future in recent years
weighed on global growth.
The eurozone came out of recession at
the beginning of 2013 as it started emerging from a five-year financial crisis,
but continues to suffer from high unemployment of 12 percent. A strong euro is
still hurting its exporters and governments are more focused on cutting debt
The fourth quarter growth -- the third
consecutive quarter of expansion -- beat analysts' expectations for a rate of
0.2 percent and eases some of the pressure on the European Central Bank to
loosen its monetary policy further. Some analysts, however, still think the ECB
to take action in coming months to keep inflation from falling further below
The growth uptick was largely driven
by higher than expected activity in the bloc's biggest economies, namely
Germany, France and Italy.
Analyst Chris Williamson of Markit
said the figures added to recent data showing "the eurozone's recovery has
moved up a gear."
Italy's quarterly growth rate of 0.1
percent marked the country's first positive growth result since 2011. The stock
market in Milan opened higher on the news, even though the country's Prime
Minister, Enrico Letta, resigned yesterday.
Germany's economy grew by 0.4 percent
in the fourth quarter, while France's saw an uptick of 0.3 percent.
Growth in the Netherlands was a strong
0.7 percent, and the economies in crisis-hit countries like Spain and Portugal
also showed new signs of life, growing by 0.3 percent and 0.4 percent.
"Not only has the pace of growth
picked up to the fastest since the second quarter of 2011, but the recovery is
also becoming more broad-based, encompassing core and so-called 'periphery'
countries alike," said Markit's Williamson.
The figures also showed the economy of the wider 28-nation EU, which includes members like Britain that don't use the euro, grew by 0.4 percent compared with the previous quarter.
For the whole of 2013, the figures showed the recovery was still at an early stage. The eurozone's GDP fell 0.4 percent, while the EU's inched up 0.1 percent.