A little--just a bit--of good economic news from Europe

05/12/2010 9:47 am EST

Focus: STOCKS

Jim Jubak

Founder and Editor, JubakPicks.com

As good news goes, today’s announcement of first quarter GDP growth in the Euro Zone economies isn’t going to produce dancing in the streets. But good news has been hard to come by in Europe recently so even the smallest positive change is welcome. 

The economies of the 16 countries that use the euro grew by 0.2% in the quarter from the fourth quarter of 2009. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg News had expected growth of just 0.1%

On a year-to-year basis GDP grew by 0.5% after falling at an annual rate of 2.2% in the fourth quarter.

You didn’t have to look very hard to discover the reason. A cheaper euro made exports less expensive for customers in non-euro countries. And that led to a 1.3% increase in industrial production in March after a 0.7% gain in February. The euro is down 11% against the U.S. dollar so far in 2010.

Unfortunately, growth wasn’t spread evenly across the euro economies.

Growth was strong in the center. In Germany GDP rose 0.2% from the fourth quarter. French GDP climbed 0.1% and Italy recorded 0.5% growth. 

On the other hand, Greek GDP fell by 0.8% in the first quarter.

But other countries that have been the locus of worry about a wider crisis fell into the growth camp even if just barely. Spain showed 0.1% growth in the quarter from the fourth quarter of 2009. Portuguese GDP climbed by 1%.

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