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Eurozone growth hits 0.6% in first quarter of 2017


Eurozone growth hits 0.6% in first quarter of 2017

The sustained growth across the eurozone will put pressure on the European Central Bank to scale back its controversial stimulus measures. (Photo: AFP/Odd Andersen)

The EU's Eurostat statistics agency said growth in the eurozone landed at 0.6 per cent in the January to March period, revising higher an earlier estimate of 0.5 per cent.

This was above the 0.5 per cent in the previous quarter and exceeded analyst forecasts.

The fresh data lent credence to surveys suggesting the eurozone economy is sustaining growth at its fastest pace since it emerged from the worst of the financial crisis six years ago.

The eurozone economy has seen a steady period of growth, expanding by 1.8 per cent in 2016 with jobs hiring also on the rise.

That was faster than the United States' growth rate of 1.6 per cent last year, the slowest pace since 2011.

The IMF forecasts that the eurozone will maintain that pace in 2017 with annual growth of 1.7 per cent.

Spain was a solid performer in the period from January to March, growing by 0.8 per cent as the country continues to recover from a damaging real estate crash marked by sky-high unemployment.

But economic growth in France slowed in the first quarter to 0.3 per cent just before the country chose centrist Emmanuel Macron in an election where the economy took centre stage.

Still, the overall figure for the eurozone shows that recovery in Europe remains on track, despite the significant political uncertainties in Europe, including Britain's divorce from the EU.

The sustained growth will put pressure on the European Central Bank to scale back its controversial stimulus measures.

Expectations are high that the European Central Bank will hint that it is heading for the exit from its easy-money policy when governors meet in Estonian capital Tallinn Thursday.

The ECB, led by Mario Draghi, has however been at pains to stress that, despite the series of positive economic signals, it may be too soon to pull back on the programme.

Source AFP