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Business News/ Market / Stock-market-news/  Europe growth slows in the third quarter

Europe growth slows in the third quarter

Foreign trade in France and Germany hurt as their export sectors suffered from emerging markets slowing down

The 19-member euro zone grew by 0.3% in the third quarter, the European Union’s (EU) statistics office Eurostat said on Friday. Photo: BloombergPremium
The 19-member euro zone grew by 0.3% in the third quarter, the European Union’s (EU) statistics office Eurostat said on Friday. Photo: Bloomberg

Berlin: Economic growth in the euro zone slowed more than expected in the third quarter as weaker foreign trade held back leaders Germany and France, and with much of the rest of the bloc underperforming.

The 19-member euro zone grew by 0.3% in the third quarter, the European Union’s (EU) statistics office Eurostat said on Friday, reinforcing expectations that the European Central Bank (ECB) will expand its monetary stimulus next month.

A Reuters poll had pointed to growth of 0.4%.

“The euro zone recovery is continuing, but it seems like driving with the handbrake on," said ING economist Vanden Houte.

“We believe that the ECB has actually already made up its mind and that today’s figures are not strong enough to deter them from going ahead with the intended easing."

On Thursday, ECB president Mario Draghi underlined the bank’s readiness to extend money printing, warning that a key measure of economic health—price inflation—was flagging. ECB policymakers’ next key meeting is on 3 December.

Highlighting the weak price pressures in much of the euro zone, figures from Spain showed inflation there fell 0.7% year-on-year in October.

Spain’s economic growth is otherwise a rare euro zone bright spot, expanding by 0.8% according to preliminary data issued earlier. Its recovery, however, is failing to bridge a growing gulf between rich and poor, storing up problems for an already-strained social security system.

The euro zone’s two largest economies, Germany and France, both grew by 0.3% in the third quarter but the expansion in both countries was held back by foreign trade as export sectors suffered from a slowdown in emerging markets.

French exports fell 0.6% after growing 1.9% in the prior quarter, statistics office INSEE said.

Growth in both France and Germany was buoyed by domestic demand, with gains in consumer spending supporting the expansion.

However, economists said that relying on consumer spending alone to drive growth is risky, especially if domestic investment does not pick up to help offset soft exports.

“It is fair to say that consumers probably saved the day for the euro zone economy in the third quarter," said Vanden Houte at ING, adding that falls in energy prices and declining unemployment have likely boosted disposable income.

But he warned: “...the boost from the recent fall in energy prices will gradually peter out over the coming quarters."

Underlining the risks to relying on consumer spending for growth, a survey by market research group Deloitte showed families across Europe look set to spend slightly less on average this Christmas, with austerity-hit Greece and Russia showing the steepest declines.

French, British, German and Spanish consumers are among those expected to spend more, the survey showed.

The overall decline would also be at a much slower pace than last year, signalling some improvement in sentiment.

On the northern rim of the euro zone, Finland’s economy contracted 0.6% in the third quarter, putting the economy on track for its fourth consecutive year of contraction in 2015.

Labelled “the sick man of Europe" by its own finance minister, Finland’s output is yet to reach 2008 levels because of a string of internal and external setbacks, including the decline of Nokia’s phone business and a recession in neighbouring Russia.

Aggregated euro zone growth was lower than expected mainly because growth in Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Finland all underperformed market expectations.

Italy, the euro zone’s third biggest economy, grew 0.2% on the quarter—short of expectations for a 0.3% expansion.

The Netherlands grew only 0.1% against expectations of 0.3%.

Portugal did not grow at all.

Battered Greece’s economy contracted again, albeit it at a milder than expected pace.

Gross domestic product shrank 0.5% in the period as capitol controls hot activity.

“It is currently hard to see euro zone growth stepping up a gear," said Howard Archer, an economist at the IHS Global Insight. Reuters

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Updated: 14 Nov 2015, 01:46 AM IST
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