A revival in government spending, and a pickup in investment, was offset by a rise in imports to leave the eurozone’s growth rate unchanged in the first three months of the year, according to revised figures released Tuesday.
The European Union’s statistics agency confirmed that the combined gross domestic product of the 19 countries that use the euro rose by 0.4% from the final three months of 2014, but raised its estimate of growth in that final quarter to 0.4% from 0.3%.
That moved the date of the currency area’s most recent, modest acceleration back a quarter, to before the European Central Bank launched its new program of quantitative easing. That may lead some critics of the program–which involves buying more than a trillion euros of mostly government bonds–to question whether it was necessary.
The first-quarter figures also suggest that the economy has benefited little from a weaker euro, which is one consequence of the various stimulus measures launched by the ECB since June 2014.
While export growth slowed to 0.6% from 0.8%, import growth picked up to 1.2% from 0.8%. As a result, trade reduced GDP by 0.2 of a percentage point.
That drag on growth was partly offset by a jump in government spending, which rose 0.6% during the quarter, having edged up by just 0.1% in the previous period. That suggests that the currency area is moving away from the focus on austerity that had prevailed during the previous five years.
Economic growth was also boosted by a pickup in investment spending, long a weakness of the eurozone, while consumer spending also accelerated, if more modestly.