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BERLIN/PARIS: Growth in Germany and Spain and a smaller-than-expected contraction in France pointed to resilience in the eurozone economy in the final three months of last year, but the bright spot belies a more troubled outlook for the bloc.

In Germany, robust exports helped Europe’s largest economy eke out 0.1% growth in the fourth quarter, staving off contraction despite a second wave of the new coronavirus slamming the brakes on consumption, data showed on Friday.

France, the eurozone’s second-largest economy, shrank 1.3% in the final three months of 2020 after the country entered a second coronavirus lockdown in October to contain a second wave of infections.

Spain achieved timid quarterly growth of 0.4%. But that has not stopped Spain from recording its worst-ever annual economic contraction, with output falling 11% from 2019’s level, official data showed.

“Numbers for Germany, France and Spain showed that GDP was relatively resilient in Q4,” Nicola Nobile at Oxford Economics wrote in a research note. But he added, “there are not many indications that this dynamic could have continued in Q1.”

The French slump, which followed an 18.5% rebound in the third quarter after a first lockdown, beat expectations for a 4% contraction on average in a Reuters poll of 28 economists, surpassing even the highest estimate of -1.4%.

But France is on tenterhooks to find out in the coming days whether the government will put the country under a new lockdown and in particular whether schools will be closed.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel and state leaders agreed last week to extend a lockdown until mid-February as the country, once a role model for fighting the pandemic, struggles with a second wave and record daily numbers of COVID-19 deaths.

On Wednesday, German government slashed its growth forecast to 3% this year, a sharp revision from last autumn’s estimate of 4.4%, caused by a second coronavirus lockdown.

The economic outlook across the 19-country euro zone is being muddied by a row between the European Union and Anglo-Swedish firm AstraZeneca over its supply of vaccines to the bloc, and by the return of inflation in Germany.

The International Monetary Fund said this week the euro area is likely to slip behind the United States in its recovery.

“Recovery paths vary within the group, with the US and Japan projected to regain end-2019 activity levels in the second half of 2021, while in the euro area and the United Kingdom activity is expected to remain below end-2019 levels into 2022,” the IMF said in its in its World Economic Outlook.

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