Eurozone growth of 0.2 percent falls short of expectations, Germany offset by France

The economic recovery in the 18-country eurozone failed to gain any momentum in the first quarter as official figures showed quarterly growth unchanged at 0.2 percent in the first three months of the year.

Though that was the eurozone's fourth straight quarter of expansion, the increase was below the consensus in the markets for a 0.4 percent rise.

The figures Thursday from Eurostat, the EU's statistics office, showed that a flat economy in France and falling output in Italy and the Netherlands offset a strong rebound in Germany. France has lagged in reducing worker protections and cutting labor costs for business — steps that have benefited other eurozone economies.

The lower-than-expected growth is likely to fuel expectations that the European Central Bank will take additional stimulus measures next month.