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German economy grew 0.7% last year

Germany's economy grew by 0.7% in 2012 - but it shrank in the fourth quarter, government figures have shown.

For 2012, the country's economy grew at a faster pace than the rest of the group of 17 European Union countries that use the euro, which has been hit by a debt crisis. But the numbers were down on the previous year, when Germany's economy grew 3%.

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 final quarter. Growth was 0.8% in the first quarter, 0.3% in the second and 0.2% in the third.

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

The official fourth quarter number will be announced next month.

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.

Meanwhile, Germany's finance ministry said the country's new borrowing in 2012 was lower than expected thanks to a stable economy and low unemployment.

It said the government borrowed 22.5 billion euro (£18.7 billion) last year, about 5.6 billion euro (£4.6 billion) less than forecast in the revised November budget.

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