Europe's major economies ended the first quarter on a sour note, with growth weak across the board. As Sonia Legg reports, jitters about a global slowdown and fears Britons may vote to leave the European Union weighed on demand.
It's been up and down for the past few months. But Europe's major economies have ended the first quarter firmly down. Nearly all key business surveys show lacklustre growth - even in Europe's powerhouse - Germany. SOUNDBITE: Angel Gurria, OECD Secretary-General, saying (English): "Growth and investment have recently been weaker than in other high income countries outside the euro area. Labour productivity growth has slowed down and is particularly low in services." Germany blames the impact of the emerging market slowdown on its exports. For IMF chief Christine Lagarde, on a visit to Germany, that's a familiar problem. China's shift away from a manufacturing economy, downturns in Russia and Brazil and the impact of low oil prices on the Middle East are all taking their toll. SOUNDBITE: Christine Lagarde, IMF Managing Director, saying (English): "We are actually growing and that is good news indeed. The not so good news is that that recovery is too weak, too fragile and its durability is at risk." Lagarde wants policymakers to work together. But even massive central bank stimulus isn't having the desired effect. SOUNDBITE: Matthew Beesley, Head of Global Equities, Henderson Global Investors, saying (English): "We are in a reality now where global growth is benign, there appears to be no clear trend and for every strong data point we see a counter balancing with less strong date commensurate with a world that is barely growing." The UK's data was equally pedestrian. And a looming vote on EU membership isn't helping. A new poll suggests many British companies have shelved investment plans until after the referendum.