LONDON - Britain avoided falling into a third recession since the 2008 global financial crisis after its economy grew by a better-than-expected 0.3 percent in the first quarter compared with the final three months of last year, official data showed Thursday.
In a significant boost to Prime Minister David Cameron's coalition government, gross domestic product (GDP) "increased by 0.3 percent in Q1 2013 compared with Q4 2012" when the British economy had contracted 0.3 percent, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said in a preliminary estimate.
The technical definition of recession is two quarters running of contracting economic activity.
"Today's figures are an encouraging sign the economy is healing," British finance minister George Osborne said in response to the data.
"Despite a tough economic backdrop, we are making progress," the chancellor of the exchequer added in a statement.
The positive GDP figure comes after Fitch last week stripped Britain of its top triple-A rating, moving it down one notch to 'AA+' amid fears that the government's austerity programme was hurting economic recovery.
"By posting a 0.3-percent quarterly expansion in the first quarter, the UK has managed to avoid a triple-dip recession," said Vicky Redwood, economist at Capital Economics research group.
"This will be a relief for Mr Osborne and the rise was also better than the 0.1-percent increase expected by the consensus."
The ONS added that Britain's economy expanded by 0.6 percent in the January-March period compared with the first quarter of 2012.