European stocks went up this morning even as new GDP numbers showed that most of its national economies are shrinking. Just not as quickly as everyone feared.
France was the first to announce this morning that its GDP didn't grow at all between the first and second quarter of 2012, but since analysts expected it to be negative, they are actually pleased with the results. Another negative quarter (the third in a row) would have put France in a technical recession, so not going south is an improvement. Germany inched forward with 0.3 percent growth, which isn't going to blow anyone away, but when compared to the rest of Europe it is a runaway landslide of economic activity.
As a whole, the European Union and the 17 countries that use the euro shrunk 0.2 percent compared to the previous quarter. Those numbers show the continent's economic problems are far from over, but since the data was in line with expectations (and could have been much worse) investors seem to be pretty much okay with anything that's not a disaster.
The real worry is that the gap between the eurozone countries is still so vast. Germany continues to be the bedrock of the EU, but Italy is down 0.7, Portugal is off more than a full percentage point, and Greece is still in free fall. Seventeen different nations with seventeen different problems trying to come up with one solution for their shared economy just isn't going to happen as long as their individual financial prospects remain so far out of sync.
Chart via Chris Williamson: