U.S. Markets

Euro zone economy slowed in fourth-quarter, imports jump

FILE PHOTO: Containers and cars are loaded on freight trains at the railroad shunting yard in Maschen near Hamburg September 23, 2012. REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer/File Photo

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The euro zone economy grew at a snail’s pace in the fourth quarter, figures on Tuesday confirmed, as investments and consumer and government spending just offset the impact of a sharp rise in imports.

EU statistics office Eurostat said that gross domestic product (GDP) in the 19 countries sharing the single currency rose by just 0.1 percent in the Oct-Dec period, in line with its flash estimate published last month.

Eurostat did though revise its figure for year-on-year growth to 1.0 from 0.9 percent.

The weak quarterly growth follows a strong 0.5 percent expansion in the first quarter, expansion of just 0.1 percent in the second and of 0.3 percent in the third quarter.

France and Italy, the zone’s second and third largest economies, as well as Finland and Greece suffered contractions in the fourth quarter.

Gross fixed capital formation contributed 0.9 percentage points to GDP and household and government spending each 0.1 points.

By contrast, net trade stripped 0.8 percentage points from GDP as imports rose by 1.8 percent while exports increased by only 0.2 percent. The change in inventories was a negative factor of 0.1 percentage points.

In the same data release, Eurostat said that employment rose by 0.3 percent quarter-on-quarter and by 1.1 percent year-on-year.

Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; editing by Francesco Guarascio