Europe Flirting With Recession

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BRUSSELS (UPI) — Eurostat, the statistical agency of the European Union, confirmed Tuesday that the economies of the eurozone shrank in the fourth quarter.

The gross domestic product in the 17-nation region that shares the euro as currency fell 0.3 percent compared to the third quarter, the agency said, keeping its estimate consistent with the flash estimate released a month ago.

Compared to the fourth quarter of 2010, the GDP grew 0.7 percent, Eurostat said.

In the larger, European Union, the GDP also fell 0.3 percent quarter-to-quarter, while it rose 0.9 percent from the same period a year earlier.

The GDP in six countries — Belgium, the Czech Republic, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Slovenia — has fallen for two consecutive quarters, which is a widely accepted, if unofficial, definition of a recession.

In Spain, the GDP dropped 0.3 percent in the fourth quarter, compared to the third. However, the GDP in the third quarter was flat compared to the second quarter.

The economy in Greece is predicted to remain in recession for the fourth consecutive year this year.

The economies of Austria, Romania, Sweden and Great Britain fell in the fourth quarter after showing growth in the previous quarter.

Data is incomplete for Ireland, where the economy dropped 1.9 percent in the third quarter compared to the second.

Among the countries reporting, Latvia posted the highest 12-month growth with GDP up 5.3 percent. That was followed by Lithuania, up 4.5 percent, and Estonia with growth of 4 percent.

Greece posted the sharpest decline, with the economy shrinking 7 percent fourth quarter to fourth quarter. Portugal’s economy contracted 2.7 percent year-to-year. Italy, Cyprus, and the Netherlands also posted annual declines.

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