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Euro zone’s slowing growth confirmed, hit by weak trade

Euro zone growth halved in the second quarter of this year as Germany’s economy shrank and trade slowed, European Union’s data showed on Friday, confirming earlier estimates.

The EU statistics agency Eurostat said the euro zone’s gross domestic product expanded by 0.2% in the second quarter, after a 0.4% expansion in the first three months of the year.

The data matched Eurostat’s earlier estimates and market expectations, confirming a gloomy outlook for the 19-nation currency bloc which is facing twin threats and uncertainty over Brexit and global trade wars.

Trade as a whole slowed during the quarter, as imports grew less than in the first quarter and exports were flat after a 0.9% growth in the previous quarter. Overall, trade contributed a negative 0.1 percentage point to the GDP figure.

U.S. President Donald Trump intensified the United States’ trade war with China in May by hiking import tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods, hitting financial markets.

Though the EU is not directly involved in this dispute, European companies have felt the pinch, such as those producing in China or those supplying for example machinery to Chinese plants. Washington has also repeatedly threatened new trade sanctions on EU companies, after imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum last year.

Germany’s economy, which is the largest in the bloc and relies heavily on exports, contracted by 0.1% on the quarter, posting the worst performance in the euro zone. A new fall in German industrial order in July, reported on Thursday, has increased recession risks in the third quarter in what is traditionally Europe’s economic engine.

Italy, euro zone’s third largest economy, halted its growth after a mere 0.1% expansion in the first quarter. The French economy, the bloc’s second largest, maintained 0.3% growth in the second quarter, matching the result of the first three months of the year.

Eurostat confirmed also that employment growth slowed in the bloc to 0.2% in the second quarter from 0.4% in the first.
Source: Reuters (Reporting by Francesco Guarascio and Philip Blenkinsop)

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