Eurozone avoids recession as Germany powers ahead on strong export performance

BRUSSELS – Official figures show that the economy of the 17 countries that use the euro confounded expectations and avoided falling back into recession in the first quarter of the year.

Eurostat, the EU’s statistics office, says Tuesday that the eurozone economy was flat when compared to the previous three-month period, against expectations for a 0.2 per cent decline. As a result, the eurozone avoided falling back into recession — officially defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth. In the last quarter of 2011, the eurozone contracted by 0.3 per cent.

Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, was primarily behind the better-than-expected performance as a strong export performance helped it grow by 0.5 per cent.

The overall flat performance hides huge disparities in the eurozone, with the debt-ridden countries mired in recession.