German growth slows to 0.4% in 2013

The German economy, Europe's biggest, saw growth nearly halved last year as the sluggish global economy and recession in its European neighbours weighed on activity, official data showed on Wednesday.

German gross domestic product (GDP) grew by just 0.4 percent in 2013, down from 0.7 percent a year earlier, the federal statistics office Destatis calculated in preliminary data.

It is also slightly lower than analyst forecasts for full-year growth of around 0.5 percent.

"On an annual average, the German economy remained stable overall in 2013," Destatis said in a statement.

"It seems that the German economy was hit by the ongoing recession in a number of European countries and the sluggish global economy," said Destatis chief Roderich Egeler.

"Strong domestic demand could only partially compensate for this. Nevertheless, after the period of weakness last winter, the economic situation improved through the course of 2013," Egeler added.

In the fourth quarter alone, the German economy expanded by "around a quarter of a percent" after growth of 0.3 percent in the third quarter, said the statistics offic'e chief economist Norbert Raeth.

Destatis is scheduled to publish a more concrete estimate on February 14.

But GDP growth was zero in the first quarter of last year, 0.7 percent in the second quarter and 0.3 percent in the third quarter.

"Private and government consumption were the key supportive factors in 2013," said Newedge Strategy analyst Annalisa Piazza.

"The eurozone crisis hurt export-orientated industries, particularly at the start of last year," said Ferdinand Fichtner of the DIW economic think-tank.

"But since the spring, GDP has expanded at a moderate pace," he said.

Germany's public finances were also slightly in the red last year, with a deficit equivalent to 0.1 percent of GDP compared with a slight surplus in 2012, the statisticians said.