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Germany and France Q4 GDP figures better than expected

France surprisingly grew last quarter while Germany contracted less than analysts had predicted.

German and French economies fared slightly better in the the fourth quarter than analysts had expected, with Germany's GDP contracting 0.2 per cent and France adding that amount, according to figures released today by Germany's Destatis and France's Insee.

Analysts had expected negative quarter-four GDP growth for France and a slightly larger contraction for Germany.

The better-than-expected news from Germany extends across the second half of 2011, with the Federal Statistics Office in Wiesbaden revising quarter-three growth up from 0.5 per cent to 0.6 per cent.

"I think Germany will continue to outperform," Jennifer McKeown, senior European economist at Capital Economics, told the New Statesman. "Consumer confidence is quite strong."

Destatis said foreign trade contributed to Germany's negative fourth quarter GDP growth. Last week, Wiesbaden released December 2011 export figures, showing a 4.3 per cent drop that month.

Meanwhile, Insee said foreign trade balance in the fourth quarter - exports rose and imports dropped from the previous quarter, both by 1.2 percent - contributed to France's quarter-four GDP growth.

McKeown is less optimistic about the French economy, and doesn't expect growth to be sustained. "French business surveys still look quite negative," she said.

Despite the fourth quarter contraction, Germany posted its second straight year of annual growth in 2011, adding 3 per cent last year following growth of 3.7 per cent in 2010.

France's GDP rose 1.7 per cent in 2011 and grew 1.4 per cent in 2010.