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European Union Q2 growth revised upward slightly

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[September 05, 2013]  BRUSSELS (AP) -- The European Union's statistics office on Wednesday revised its second quarter economic growth estimate up slightly in the latest sign that the bloc has left a protracted recession behind.

The 27 countries' combined gross domestic product grew 0.4 percent in the second quarter compared with the previous three-month period, when it shrank 0.1 percent, Eurostat said. The agency, which had last month estimated growth of 0.3 percent, said the revision was due to more complete data from several member states, with household spending underpinning the economic momentum in many countries.

Eurostat left unrevised its 0.3 percent growth estimate for the 17 countries sharing the euro currency. Compared with a year earlier, seasonally adjusted GDP was down by 0.5 percent in the eurozone and remained stable for the EU, revised up from estimated drops of 0.7 percent and 0.2 percent.

The revision came amid a string of recent positive data -- from increased business optimism to higher manufacturing output and retail sales -- that point to a steady increase in the bloc's economic activity.

"The recent sharp rise in consumer confidence suggests that spending growth is likely to pick up further in the coming quarters," Capital Economics analysts wrote in a research note to clients. They expect a further expansion of the economy in the third quarter, even though they warned "that the continued weakness of the labor market is likely to limit the pace of the consumer recovery."

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Europe's unemployment rate remains stubbornly high at 12.1 percent. In some countries hardest-hit by Europe's debt crisis, such as Greece and Spain, more than one in four people don't have a job. Analysts say more dynamic growth will be needed to spur investment and job creation there.

Still, even meager growth in Europe provides a boon to the global economy. The EU, which now totals 28 nations following Croatia's accession in July, has a population of some 500 million and its annual gross domestic product stands at around $17.3 trillion -- both more than the U.S., which has GDP of $16.6 trillion for 315 million people.

[Associated Press]

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