Europe’s economy expands less than expected

EUROPE’S economy expanded less than economists forecast in the fourth quarter as cold weather curbed German output and French growth unexpectedly stalled.

Europe’s economy expands less than expected

Gross domestic product in the euro region rose 0.3% from the previous three months, when it increased at the same rate, the European Union’s statistics office in Luxembourg said. Economists had forecast the economy to expand 0.4%, the median of 37 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey showed. Exports fell 0.4% in December from the previous month, a separate report showed.

Companies have relied on faster-growing markets to boost sales as governments from Spain to Greece toughened budget cuts, undermining consumer demand. Bayerische Motoren Werke, the world’s largest luxury-car maker, this month forecast a “significant” sales increase in the first half and German investor confidence rose for a fourth month in February, suggesting the recovery is gathering strength.

“Weaker growth is no reason for concern because it was mainly to special factors such as bad weather,” said Alexander Krueger, head of capital market analysis at Bankhaus Lampe in Dusseldorf. “Germany will remain the role model, while other countries will have slightly weaker growth.”

In 2010, euro-region GDP rose 1.7%, yesterday’s report showed. German GDP rose 0.4% in the fourth quarter from the previous three months, when it increased 0.7%, as unusually cold temperatures hurt construction output. France’s economy maintained its pace, growing 0.3%.

In Italy, GDP rose 0.1% while Finland’s economy grew 2.5%.

In Greece and Portugal, the economies contracted from the previous three months, yesterday’s report showed. The statistics office didn’t provide figures for Ireland.

“Overall, these figures show solid growth,” EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said at a press conference in Brussels. “Economic growth is continuing but it’s somewhat softening as we expected.”


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