[BRUSSELS] The eurozone economy expanded by 0.4 per cent in the first quarter, official EU data showed Wednesday, with a surprising performance by France where growth exceeded powerhouse Germany's.
The official Eurostat agency's first estimate for the January-March period in the 19-nation eurozone was in line with analyst expectations, and was up from 0.3 per cent growth in the fourth quarter of 2014.
The eurozone has "benefitted from sharply lower oil prices, a weakened euro and increasing ECB stimulus," said Howard Archer, Chief European Economist at IHS Global Insight.
"All of the major eurozone economies saw improved economic performances in the first quarter except for Germany," he said.
Growth slowed in Germany, Europe's biggest economy, to 0.3 per cent in the first quarter of 2015.
At the same time, French growth picked up to a vigorous 0.6 per cent from zero growth at the end of last year.
The Italian economy edged its way further out of recession with stronger than expected 0.3 per cent growth in the first quarter which followed zero growth in the previous three month period.
The news was far bleaker for debt-hit Greece where the economy fell back into recession with a contraction of minus 0.2 per cent amid four months of deadlock in bailout talks between the radical Syriza-led government and its EU-IMF creditors.