PARIS (AP) — The French economy is officially out of recession, according to data released Wednesday that showed gross domestic product had its strongest quarterly growth in two years.
The national statistics agency, Insee, said that France's gross domestic product rose 0.5 percent in the second quarter, largely on a rebound in exports, domestic household demand and public spending. The figure was well above the consensus forecast of 0.1 percent and even the more optimistic Banque de France prediction of 0.2 percent growth.
But the positive figure wasn't a total surprise. Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici said this weekend that the economy was out of recession, even before the official data became known. In a statement Wednesday, he reveled in the return to growth, saying that France's exports — which rose 2 percent in the quarter — were benefitting from a pickup in demand throughout the eurozone. Data for the rest of the European Union will be released later in the day.
Insee says the April-to-June growth was the strongest quarterly growth since early 2011, when Europe's debt crisis exploded, forcing governments to cut spending and dragging many economies into recession.
France, Europe's second-largest economy, has fared better than many, but its growth has been stagnant for two years. GDP shrank 0.2 percent for each of the last two quarters. But the government's growth projections for the full year indicate that France is not out of the woods yet. Moscovici recently said that growth would be between a fall of 0.1 percent and a rise of 0.1 percent in 2013; that was a slight downgrade of the official projection of 0.1 percent annual growth.
That would mean that the second half of 2013 will not keep pace with the second quarter's growth. Wednesday's figure is also just a first estimate and could later be revised.