Feb 12, 5:25 AM EST

Eurozone economy grew a paltry 0.3 percent in Q4

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BRUSSELS (AP) -- The 19-country eurozone grew by a paltry quarterly rate of 0.3 percent in the final three months of 2015 despite tail winds such as cheap energy, an export-boosting drop in the currency and monetary stimulus.

The growth reported Friday by the European Union's statistics agency, Eurostat, was in line with market expectations after earlier reports showed Germany, Europe's biggest economy, grew at the same rate and France, the region's number 2, expanded by 0.2 percent.

Over the whole of 2015, the eurozone grew 1.5 percent. Though that's the highest level since 2011, growth remains way below levels that would markedly reduce the bloc's unemployment rate, which is still above 10 percent.

Growth across many parts of the eurozone has been held back by a number of factors.

In Greece, controls on money such as limits on the amounts individuals can withdraw from ATMs have pushed the economy back into recession. Greece contracted by a quarterly rate of 0.6 percent in the fourth quarter.

Italy's economy grew but barely, at a quarterly rate of 0.1 percent. The country has become an increasing source of concern over recent weeks as its banks remain lumbered with a huge amount of bad loans that limits the ability of the financial sector to lend to the wider economy.

One bright spot was Spain, where unemployment nevertheless remains over 20 percent. Growth in the country was 0.8 percent.

Following the turmoil in global financial markets this year, there are worries that growth may falter this year and that's prompted renewed pressure on the European Central Bank to do more to boost the eurozone economy at its next policy meeting on March 10.

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