Germany, France top U.S. in economic growth

Europe's two largest economies officially pull the 17-country euro zone out of recession. Now what?

The economies of Germany and France came thundering out of the gate in the second fiscal quarter 2013, growing faster than expected and beating the U.S., according to a new report.

OK, so "thundering" is a bit of an over-reach -- but any growth is good growth, no?

A Reuters report from Brussels this morning notes that Europe's two largest economies grew enough to pull the 17-nation euro zone "out of a 1-1/2 year-long recession" with 0.7 percent and 0.5 percent growth, respectively.

The United States, widely considered to be on stronger footing than its neighbors across the pond, posted 0.4 percent growth in the same period.

The European narrative hasn't changed, though. Spain and Italy continue to struggle, and the euro zone as a whole is still characterized as "fragile."

But an increase in business and consumer spending can't hurt, particularly in the countries between the top and bottom of the spectrum: Portugal, Austria and Finland all posted strong numbers. (The Netherlands, not so much.)

Economists see few major gains to be had before 2015. The real question is how officials see austerity as the continent continues to unwind.

Photo: French president Francois Hollande and German chancellor Angela Merkel in Oslo in 2012. (Statsministerens kontor/Flickr)

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