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Eurozone recession deepens

German manufacturing plant.

German manufacturing plant.

LONDON — The eurozone recession deepened in the final three months of 2012, official figures show.

The economy of the 17 nations in the euro shrank by 0.6 per cent in the fourth quarter, which was worse than forecast.

It is the sharpest contraction since the beginning of 2009 and marks the first time the region failed to grow in any quarter during a calendar year.

It followed news that the economies of Germany, France and Italy had all shrunk by more than expected.

A recession is usually defined as two consecutive quarters of contraction. In the first three months of 2012 the eurozone economy failed to grow, but then in the second quarter of the year it contracted by 0.2 per cent and it shrank by 0.1 per cent in the third quarter.

The GDP numbers sent the euro lower. It fell to a three-week low against the US dollar of $1.3320.

Carsten Brzeski from ING said: “These are horrible numbers, it’s a widespread contraction, which does not match this positive picture of stabilisation and positive contagion.”

Expecting growth

But he added: “We still expect growth to return in the course of 2013 but any return of growth will be very small which means that the social impact of this recession, especially in the peripheral countries will be still a very severe one.”

Germany, the eurozone’s biggest economy, saw the deepest contraction since the height of the financial crisis as its economy shrank 0.6 per cent.

It was hit by a sharp decline in exports.

The German statistics office said: “Comparatively weak foreign trade was the decisive factor for the decline in the economic performance at the end of the year: in the final quarter of 2012 exports of goods declined significantly more than imports of goods.”

The French economy shrank by 0.3 per cent in the fourth quarter, while Italy showed 0.9 per cent contraction for the period.

There are diverging views on the prospects for the different countries in the region.

Economists remain upbeat about the outlook for Germany. (BBC)

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