Finnish economy contracts for third straight quarter

Finland was in recession for most of 2012, with the economy shrinking for three straight quarters and by 0.2 percent for the full year, preliminary official data showed on Thursday.

In December, The Finnish government had forecast a 0.1 percent contraction for 2012.

According to Statistics Finland, the economy narrowed by 0.5 percent in the fourth quarter, on the heels of a 0.5 percent contraction in the third quarter and 0.4 percent in the second.

The first quarter was the only three-month period last year to register growth, albeit of a minimal 0.1 percent.

The fourth quarter figure is a drop of 1.8 percent from the same period in 2011.

While Finland is in recession -- defined as two quarters of negative growth in a row from output in the previous quarter -- it has held up relatively well compared to most other economies in the eurozone.

But its economy relies heavily on exports, which have been hit by the crisis in the rest of Europe.

Finland is the only eurozone country to boast a "triple A" rating with a "stable" outlook from the three main international credit rating agencies.

Its unemployment rate of 7.7 percent in December remains below the eurozone average of 11.7 percent.

Statistics Finland is scheduled to release more detailed growth figures on March 1.