16 May 2012

Eurozone narrowly avoids return to recession

10:26 am on 16 May 2012

The 17-nation eurozone has avoided returning to recession - but only just - with economic activity stalling in the first three months of this year.

The stronger-than-expected performance was in large part due to growth of 0.5% in the German economy.

In the final quarter of 2011, the eurozone shrank by 0.3%, and many analysts had expected further contraction, the BBC reports.

The French economy recorded zero growth in the first quarter of 2012, while the Italian economy contracted by 0.8%.

The Italian economy shrank by 0.7% between October and December last year, and has now contracted for three consecutive quarters. The country is struggling as the government cuts back on spending, raises taxes and reforms pensions in an attempt to cut debt levels.

The figures from Eurostat also showed that Spain's economy shrank by 0.3% in the first quarter.

Separately, the Greek national statistics office said the nation's economy had contracted by 6.2% in the three-month period.

Greece is implementing drastic austerity measures to cut its deficit and comply with the terms of a massive bailout from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

These measures have proved hugely unpopular with Greeks, the majority of whom voted against austerity in elections on 6 May.

On Tuesday, politicians admitted defeat in their attempts to form a working coalition, meaning Greece will go the polls again in June.