French economy at a standstill

Euros cash machineFrance's economy saw zero growth in the second quarter, fuelling fears that Europe's second largest economy is hovering on the edge of a new recession.

There was slightly better news from Germany, where the economy grew 0.3% in the second quarter, despite the eurozone's woes.
The Insee statistics agency in released preliminary estimates for the French economy in line with its earlier forecast of zero growth for gross domestic product in the quarter. It is the third straight quarter without growth.

The central bank and analysts had forecast a 0.1% contraction for the quarter.
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France has so far avoided a new recession even as other European economies succumbed amid the continent's debt crisis. Insee also showed that consumer spending shrank and imports grew more than exports.

In Germany, the Federal Statistical Office said Europe's largest economy was helped by both consumer consumption and the balance of exports and imports.

The growth was slightly higher than the 0.2% gain in gross domestic product predicted by many economists, but still represents a slowdown from the 0.5% growth in the first quarter. The government is predicting overall growth of 0.7% this year, though others are forecasting slightly more robust gains.

The German economy so far has been relatively unaffected by the debt crisis afflicting its eurozone partners but many fear it will soon be dragged down as well. Earlier this month, the Economy Ministry and the statistical office reported that industrial production and exports slipped in June, underlining those concerns.

Carsten Brzeski, an economist with ING bank in Brussels, said the new figures were clearly good news, but the sharp drop in new orders from the other countries using the euro currency since the beginning of the year portends a further slowdown.

"The German economy has once again escaped the technical recession many other eurozone countries are currently experiencing with no more than a fright," he said in a research note. In fact, the economy remains the stronghold of the eurozone - however, another strong quarter merely glosses over the fact that even the stronghold has already caught the euro crisis virus."

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