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Recession hits Eurozone again

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The 17-country eurozone has fallen back into recession for the first time in three years as the fallout from the region’s financial crisis was felt from Amsterdam to Athens.

And with surveys pointing to increasingly depressed conditions across the group at a time of austerity and high unemployment, the recession is forecast to deepen and make the debt crisis — which has been calmer of late — even more difficult to handle.

Official figures Thursday showed that the eurozone contracted by 0.1 percent in the July-to-September period from the quarter before.

The decline reported by Eurostat, the EU’s statistics office, was in line with market expectations and follows a 0.2percent fall recorded in the second quarter. As a result, the eurozone is technically in recession, commonly defined as two straight quarters of falling output.

“The eurozone economy will continue its decline in Q4 and probably well into 2013 too — a good backdrop for another debt crisis,” said Michael Taylor, an economist at Lombard Street Research.

Because of the eurozone’s grueling three-year debt crisis, the region has been the major focus of concern. The eurozone economy is worth around $12.1 trillion, on par with the U.S. The region, with its 332 million people, is the United States’ largest export customer, and any falloff in demand will hit order books.

While the U.S has managed to bounce back from its own recession in 2008-09, albeit inconsistently, and China continues to post strong growth, Europe’s economies have been on a downward spiral.

And last week, the European Union’s executive arm forecast the eurozone’s economy would shrink 0.4 percent this year, with a meager 0.1 percent growth in 2013.

The eurozone had avoided returning to recession since the financial crisis after the collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers, mainly thanks to the strength of its largest single economy, Germany.

But even that country is now struggling as exports drain in light of the economic problems afflicting large chunks of the eurozone. Germany’s economy grew 0.2 percent in the third quarter, down from a 0.3 percent increase in the previous quarter.

Perhaps the most dramatic decline was seen in the Netherlands, which has imposed strict austerity measures. Its economy shrank 1.1 percent on the previous quarter.

Five eurozone countries are in recession: Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Cyprus. Those five are also at the center of Europe’s debt crisis and are imposing austerity measures.

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