Recent Updates

  • Malaysia: Motor Vehicle Sales (Apr)
  • Malaysia: House Price Index by State (Q1)
  • Macao: Visitor Arrivals (Apr)
  • Turkey: Domestic Debt by Holder (APR)
  • UK Regional: Northern Ireland: Mortgage Possession (Q1)
  • more updates...

Economy in Brief

Good Q1 Gains in GDP in 4 European Countries
by Carol Stone April 13, 2004

After long periods of sluggishness, the economies in Europe seemed finally to be recouping some strength during the first quarter. Reports for Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands all showed decent growth in Q1, in some cases the best performances in three years or more.

Germany, for example, had its largest quarterly increase since Q1 2001 and the best year-on-year gain since then as well. German statisticians did not report any details today, but their commentary indicates that foreign demand is the driving force. This corroborates our analysis of the German manufacturing sector a week ago, which shows notably larger increases in foreign orders than in domestic ones.

France, in its "flash" estimate, reports GDP up 0.8% on the quarter, the largest rise since Q1 2002. Year-to-year growth appears to be 1.8% (calculated by applying the new Q1 percent change "flash" to the Q4 2003 level of GDP), the best since mid-2001. Domestic demand may have helped in France, where separate data show that household spending on manufactured goods grew 2.0% on the quarter (quarterly rate).

In Italy, GDP increase 0.43% in Q1 over Q4 and 0.8% over the year-earlier period. Its recent behavior is similar to its neighbors, as seen in the graph.

The Netherlands is also seeing a turn toward healthier growth. In the most recent period, the advance has come in private capital spending. This is the only country reporting GDP details today, and they show a sharp 2.2% quarterly gain in business investment. Government investment also rose, but more slowly. Consumption edged lower overall with nearly offsetting moves in private (up) and government (down). Exports fell, although they are up 1.4% from a year earlier.

All of these countries' economies showed improvement in Q1, and the driving force seems to have been different in each one. The gains remain small compared to the boom times of the late 1990s, but the diversity of sources for the growth is encouraging, especially in the face of the common burden of rising energy costs.[Details for Germany, France and Italy will be reported by their respective statistical agencies over the coming two weeks.]

Qtr/Qtr4th Qtr/4th Qtr
Percent Changes Year/ Year
1st Qtr 2004 4th Qtr 2003 3rd Qtr 2003   2003 2002 2001
Germany 0.44 0.26 0.21 1.47 0.22 0.34 0.42
France 0.80 0.67 0.69 1.80e 1.19 1.37 0.44
Italy 0.43 0.04 0.41 0.80 0.12 0.91 0.64
Netherlands 0.43 0.48 0.00 0.77 -0.37 0.13 0.51
large image