Growth down but Europe's largest economy outpaces sluggish eurozone

Germany's economy grew by 0.7 percent in 2012 — but the economy shrank in the fourth quarter, government figures showed Tuesday.

For 2012, the country's economy grew at faster pace than the rest of the group of 17 European Union countries that uses the euro, which has been hit by a debt crisis. But the numbers were down on the previous year, when the Germany's economy grew 3.0 percent.

No fourth-quarter figure was given for gross domestic product, but the full-year total underscored what economists have been suspecting for some time — that the country turned in negative growth in the fourth quarter. Growth was 0.8 percent in the first quarter, 0.3 percent in the second and 0.2 percent in the third.

Analyst Carsten Brzeski at ING said the numbers showed that the German economy shrank around 0.3-0.4 percent in the fourth quarter.

Exports to the United States and China have helped keep Germany going even as demand sags in crisis hit-countries such as Spain, Portugal and Greece.

Due to a methodological quirk, German state statistics agency releases annual growth figure before it issues fourth-quarter numbers. The official fourth quarter number will be announced next month.