Eurozone Data To Show First Quarter Economic Rebound

Eurozone indicators to be released this week are expected to confirm a rebound in first quarter economic momentum in the 12-nation bloc, with inflation seen as creeping up in April under the influence of high oil prices, economists said. An initial estimate from the European statistics agency Eurostat is likely to show that eurozone GDP growth came to 0.6% in the first quarter from 0.3% in the final three months of last year.

Business surveys have been particularly positive since the start of the year, economists said, adding that the first quarter GDP number would play a key role in the European Central Bank's decision on whether or not to raise interest rates at its June 8 council meeting in Madrid.

Industrial output in both Germany and France is likely to have strengthened recently, with production rising 0.5% in March in Germany and 0.9% in France. In Germany manufacturing orders are projected to have continued to improve in February and March, supported by strong domestic and global demand. Orders are expected to show a 0.6% month-on-month increase in February and 0.7% in March, economists said.

In Germany, the eurozone's leading economy, GDP growth is expected to have rebounded strongly to around 0.6% in the first quarter after the stagnation seen in the final quarter of 2005. Strong sentiment surveys suggest that Germany is now leading the eurozone recovery economists said.

The Italian economy, driven by robust industrial output, is also projected to show a recovery in the first quarter after a weak 2005. GDP is believed to have expanded 0.5% after zero growth in the fourth quarter.

In Spain the National Statistics Institute is expected to confirm the Bank of Spain's estimate that GDP grew 0.8% quarter-on-quarter and an annual 3.5% in the first quarter.

The Dutch economy meanwhile should be seen to have grown 0.8% in the first quarter, just down from 1% in the final three months of 2005.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2006

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