Photographer: Martin Leissl/Bloomberg
Economy

Europe Just Might Beat the U.S. In First-Quarter Growth

Compared with its rivals, the euro-area economy had a better start to 2015

The euro-area economy is poised to take the lead for once.

After lagging expansions in the U.S. and U.K. for the past four years, the 19-nation economy may have begun the year growing faster than its rivals.

While the U.S. economy grew 0.1 percent in the first quarter from the prior three months and the U.K.'s 0.3 percent, economists in Bloomberg's Monthly Survey are predicting growth of 0.4 percent for the euro-area over the same period.

Already data from Spain, Austria and Belgium, which account for 18 percent of the region's economy, suggest that call is on the money, according to Christian Schulz, an economist at Berenberg Bank. In Germany, the bloc's powerhouse economy, the government has lifted its growth projections to 1.8 percent this year. But it's Spain's surge which is standing out. Its economy grew 0.9 percent in the first quarter, the fastest in seven years and a sign it's emerging from the recent financial crisis. To Schulz that's a "shining example'' to Greece on what can happen if the government takes action to repair an economy's flaws.

The uptick from Madrid to Berlin comes as the euro bloc capitalizes on a weaker exchange rate, a drop in oil prices, the start of quantitative easing and rising stock markets. The acceleration is also in keeping with the findings of a Bloomberg survey of financial professionals which named Europe as the best place to invest for the first time since at least 2009. Barclays Plc economists reckon the region's monetary and financial conditions are now the most favorable since the euro was born in 1999.

But will it last? The International Monetary Fund, for one, is not convinced. It said this month that the euro-area economy will grow 1.5 percent over the course of the year, less than the 3.1 percent projected for the U.S. and the 2.7 percent for the U.K.

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