One swallow doesn't make a summer. Nor does one upward blip on the charts of GDP signal an ongoing recovery. But at long last, two of the world's largest economies are showing signs of awakening from their long sleep.

  • Japan, the planet's second largest developed economy, enjoyed its best first quarter for a year, according to government data.
       Robust consumption fuelled an annualized increase of 5.3% in the quarter ended March 31. GDP, seen as the broad barometer of economic activity, rose 1.3% after price adjustments.
       Driven by improving income and job conditions, the latest data marks a robust recovery from stagnation in the October-December 2004 period.
       However, there is a downside: exports, normally Japan's most reliable indicator of growth, fell 0.2% in Q1, marking the first drop since the October-December period in 2001.

  • Growth in Germany, Europe's largest economy, unexpectedly hit a four-year high in the first quarter of 2005 - welcome news in the face of a recent torrent of downward growth revisions.
        Thriving exports were the driving force behind the unexpected economic uptick in the first quarter. This followed the equally unexpected shrinkage in the fourth quarter of last year. The German economy actually outgrew the US economy, which notched just 0.8% quarter-on-quarter growth in the first three months.
       Real gross domestic product grew by a seasonally and calendar adjusted 1% January and March compared with the previous quarter, twice as fast as economists had predicted. GDP shrank by 0.1% in the fourth quarter of 2004.

    Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung; additional content by WARC staff