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Eurozone first-quarter growth falls short, recovery struggling

The eurozone economy grew much slower than expected in the first quarter of 2014, official data showed Thursday, while fourth-quarter performance was revised down, stoking concerns the recovery is struggling.

BRUSSELS: The eurozone economy grew much slower than expected in the first quarter of 2014, official data showed Thursday, while fourth-quarter performance was revised down, stoking concerns the recovery is struggling.

Eurostat said the 18-nation eurozone grew 0.2 per cent in the three months to March, short of analyst forecasts for 0.4 per cent, while the fourth quarter of 2013 was cut to 0.2 per cent from the initial estimate of 0.3 per cent.

Figures earlier Thursday showed the German economy, Europe's biggest, beat estimates with a first quarter gain of 0.8 per cent, but faltering France fell back further, with no growth at all.

Analysts said the currency bloc's first-quarter outcome was disappointing and increases the likelihood the European Central Bank will have to take more measures to stimulate growth when it next meets in June.

"In all, the figures point to a very slow recovery... which will do little to erode spare capacity or reduce deflation risks," Jennifer McKeown at Capital Economics said.

"This should encourage the ECB to cut interest rates next month and prepare a quantitative easing (stimulus) programme for use in the near future."

The eurozone finally escaped a record recession in the second quarter of 2013 with growth of 0.3 per cent, but this slowed to 0.1 per cent expansion in the third quarter.

The subsequent quarterly figures suggest the eurozone is simply not growing fast enough to cut near record unemployment levels and take up the slack in the economy.

McKeown said Thursday's figures suggest the eurozone economy could post overall growth of 1.0 per cent this year, compared with the EU's recent forecast for 1.2 per cent.

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