Eurozone recession deepens as economies contract

Jack Ewing / New York Times News Service /

FRANKFURT, Germany — European economies shrank in the fourth quarter at their fastest rate since the depth of the financial crisis in 2009, new data showed Thursday, with both strong and weak countries falling short of expectations and raising anxieties of a longer, deeper recession.

Germany and France are now caught up in a slump that was already well under way in other big eurozone economies like Spain and Italy.

The figures are a reminder of how hard it has become for many of the world’s most economically developed countries to overcome their debt problems. In the eurozone, economic output shrank 0.6 percent from October through December, compared with the previous quarter, according to official figures published Thursday. That came after a decline of 0.1 percent in the third quarter.

While economists had expected a decline in the fourth quarter, they did not expect it to be quite so big. The disappointing data call into question the timing of a recovery that was supposed to begin later this year. Almost every one of the eurozone’s 17 members suffered a drop in gross domestic product. In the three biggest euro economies, GDP fell 0.6 percent in Germany, 0.3 percent in France and 0.9 percent in Italy.

The economic report Thursday by Eurostat, the European Union’s statistics agency, was not bad enough to kill all hope that the eurozone was on the mend and could yet see weak growth later in the year.

Industrial production for the bloc rose in December, and surveys have suggested that businesses and consumers are becoming more willing to spend because they are less afraid that the eurozone will break up under the stress of debt and banking crisis.

Toyota pays $29M to states to settle safety suit

Eds: Specifies that customers will be reimbursed for rental cars or taxis

By DEE-ANN DURBIN

AP Auto Writer

DETROIT (AP) — Toyota said Thursday it will pay $29 million to 29 states and American Samoa as part of a settlement related to its safety recalls.

State attorneys general sued Toyota in 2010 after it recalled 14 million vehicles globally for accelerating without warning. The lawsuit accused Toyota of failing to notify customers promptly about the problems.

During their investigation, the attorneys general found that poor communication between Toyota’s headquarters in Japan and its U.S. operations had contributed to the problem. Toyota has promised to improve communications and give its U.S. executives more decision-making power.

Toyota has agreed to post owners’ manuals online in an effort to make sure vehicle information is easily accessible.