Business World

Tuesday 23 May 2017

Eurozone back in recession as Germany slows to crawl

Robin Emmott

THE eurozone fell into a recession in July-September, the second since the global financial crisis in 2009, as French resilience could not make up for a slump across Europe and the three-year debt crisis slowed Germany to a crawl.

Economic output in the 17-country eurozone fell 0.1pc in the third quarter, the EU's statistics office Eurostat said on Thursday, following a 0.2-pc drop in the second quarter.

Those two quarters of contraction put the eurozone's €9.4 trillion economy officially in recession, although Italy and Spain have been contracting for a year already and Greece is suffering an outright depression.

Germany and France, the eurozone's biggest economies, could not save the bloc from a double-dip recession even though both countries managed 0.2pc growth in the quarter. Large, countries like Italy, Spain and the Netherlands all contracted and Belgium, a big exporter, stagnated.

Millions of people across Europe protested against government spending cuts that EU policymakers say are crucial to ending the debt crisis but which others blame for the economic contraction.

"We are now getting into a double dip recession which is entirely self-made," said Paul De Grauwe, an economist with the London School of Economics. "It is a result of excessive austerity in southern countries and unwillingness in the north to do anything else," he said.

Not everyone shares that view and the European Commission says labour costs are falling and exports are rising for Greece, Portugal, Spain and Ireland, arguing that austerity is a necessary evil to bring down unsustainable budget deficits.

The European Commission sees a 0.4 percent contraction for the eurozone in all of 2012.

Hopes for a recovery next year are also fading, with the European Commission saying the economy will grow just 0.1pc in 2013.

A rebound in the eurozone could be vital for the rest of the world as the United States and China struggle with the impact of the crisis on their companies' ability to grow and prosper.

In one positive sign, Eurostat said separately that the eurozone's annual inflation fell to 2.5pc in October from 2.6pc in September, suggesting an end to a run of stubborn inflation that has contributed to the difficult environment.

But after months of resilience, Germany, Europe's largest economy, is seeing its companies unnerved by the crisis and demand for its goods in the eurozone and abroad is drying up.

While German gross domestic product expanded by 0.5pc in the first quarter, it slowed to 0.3pc in the second and weakened again in the third quarter.

Economists expect a worse performance in the fourth quarter.


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