Stronger growth in the euro zone’s two largest economies, Germany and France, helped the euro zone to emerge from its longest recession to date in the second quarter.
The data confirm expectations that a fragile recovery was under way in the 17-state bloc.
The euro zone needed seven quarters to return to growth of 0.3%, on a seasonally adjusted basis, in the three months to June, data from the European Union’s statistics office Eurostat showed.
Germany reported solid economic growth of 0.7% in the second quarter, while France posted a surprisingly strong 0.5% rebound.
Confirming a fragmented picture of the rebound, Spain’s economy fell by 0.1% on the quarter, while Italy and the Netherlands both dropped by 0.2%. Cyprus’s economy contracted by 1.4% in the three month period.
But bailed-out euro zone peer Portugal posted a 1.1% expansion, showing the fastest growth in the euro zone in the three months to June, data showed.
The euro zone’s performance in the second quarter beat expectations of 35 economists in Reuters poll, who anticipated a 0.2% rise.
Eurostat revised the first quarter drop in the euro zone to 0.3% on the quarter, from a previous 0.2% fall.
The euro zone now faces an uneven and bumpy recovery dented by record high joblessness and belt-tightening austerity in peripheral countries, which need to speed up market reforms, boost growth and create new jobs.
A number of countries including Ireland are not included in this survey due to the different schedules that statistics agencies operate under.
Rehn cautions that growth signs still fragile
The latest economic data suggest the euro zone’s recovery from its longest recession in history is within reach, but it would be premature to say the crisis is over, the EU’s top economic official said today.
“For next year, our projections show the recovery should be on a more solid footing, as long as we can continue to avoid new political crises and detrimental market turbulence,” EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said.
Rehn said the growth figures remained low and the tentative signs of growth were still fragile given uneven recovery in some euro member countries, such as Spain or Greece, whose unemployment rates remained “unacceptably high”.
”A sustained recovery is now within reach, but only if we persevere on all fronts of our crisis response: keep up the pace of economic reform, regain control over our debt, both public and private, and build the pillars of a genuine economic and monetary union,” the Commissioner said.
The Czech Republic exited recession in the second quarter while the European Union’s other bigger eastern economies improved, although there was little sign of the optimism among consumers needed to drive a stronger upturn.
Headline numbers showed the Czechs firmly back in positive territory with growth of 0.7% compared with the first quarter. Hungary grew 0.1% and Poland 0.4%.
The pick-up in emerging Europe is expected largely to have come from improvement in Germany and other larger euro zone countries to which the region’s cheap and flexible businesses send much of their exports.