Statistics give a hint of recovery in Europe

Three major European countries returned to muted economic growth during the summer, underscoring both the momentum of the global recovery and Europe’s lagging role within it.

Germany, France and the Netherlands, which together account for more than half the economic activity in the euro zone, on Thursday all reported a modest expansion of gross domestic product in the third quarter, after their economies shrank in the previous quarter. For Germany and the Netherlands, which had been in recession, the numbers were a welcome bill of health.

But the actual gains – 0.2 percent in Germany, 0.4 percent in France, and 0.1 percent in the Netherlands – illustrate that in Europe, the difference between a recession and recovery can be little more than a rounding error.

“Europe remains very sluggish,” said Daniel Gros, the director of the Center for European Policy Studies in Brussels. “What we will have at the end of this year in growth would not be considered adequate in the U.S.”

Indeed, much of Europe’s resurgence can be traced to the more robust recovery in the United States and the continued torrid growth in China. Americans are buying French fashion while the Chinese import German machinery.

The growth in demand for European exports, particularly those of Germany, has come despite a rising euro, the damaging effects of which had been widely forecast in Europe.

The euro rose again Thursday, to $1.173 in late trading from $1.164 Wednesday.