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For the first time in five years, the euro zone’s largest economies are all growing

By Jason Karaian
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Euro zone economists have been so beaten down by years of recession, stagnation, and turmoil that many have lost their sense of perspective. In normal times, quarterly growth of 0.4% in a major world economy would elicit a yawn, or perhaps a shrug.

But the euro zone’s first-quarter growth of 0.4% (pdf) is something to celebrate. The bloc’s four largest economies—France, Germany, Italy, and Spain—all registered growth at the same time for the first time since 2010.

Yes, Germany’s 0.3% performance was a bit weaker than expected, but most believe this is a temporary blip. Much more encouraging was France, with 0.6% growth, its fastest rate in two years. And by its dismal standards, Italy’s 0.3% growth in the quarter was positively speedy. After all, it was only the second quarter in nearly four years that Italy has managed to eke out any economic growth at all.

Only three of the euro zone’s relative minnows—Estonia, Finland, and Greece—saw GDP shrink in the first quarter. And get this: In the first quarter, the euro zone grew faster than both the US and UK for the first time since 2011. This is unlikely to last, with the European Commission’s own forecast projecting 1.5% growth this year in the euro zone, well below the 3.1% and 2.6% growth predictions for the US and UK, respectively.

But let the euro zone have its moment. It needs this.

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