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Netherlands Back in Recession as GDP Shrinks

02/14/2013 | 05:14am US/Eastern

By Maarten van Tartwijk

AMSTERDAM--The Netherlands slid back into recession in the fourth quarter, as declines in investments and household consumption led to a second straight quarter of economic contraction, official data showed Thursday.

Output in the Netherlands, the euro zone's fifth-largest economy, contracted by a quarterly 0.2% in the final three months of 2012, data from the national statistics bureau CBS showed. After shrinking by 0.9% in the third quarter, the Netherlands officially entered a recession for the third time since 2009, according to a definition accepted by many economists.

The Netherlands is considered one of the stronger economies in the euro zone, but its performance is lagging other 'core' members of the bloc amid slowing exports and a persistent slump in the housing market. The economic contraction will likely drag on until the second half of 2013, according to several official forecasts.

Falling house prices have caused an erosion of household wealth and this in turn has led to consumers cutting back their spending. Dutch households are among the most indebted in Europe due to their large mortgage debt.

The fourth-quarter contraction was driven by a 5.2% year-on-year drop in investments and a 2.3% decline in household consumption, CBS said. Exports, a key driver of the Dutch economy, grew by 3.2% on the year, it said.

Write to Maarten van Tartwijk at maarten.vantartwijk@dowjones.com

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