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OECD sees strong U.S. growth, Europe to lag *PIC*

OECD sees strong U.S. growth, Europe to lag (by William L. Watts)

FRANKFURT (MarketWatch) -- The Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development on Thursday said economic growth in the Group of Seven industrial economies will pick up speed in the first half of 2012, but warned that the recovery remains fragile and that North America is likely to outpace a lagging Europe. "Our forecast for the first half of 2012 points to robust growth in the United States and Canada, but much weaker activity in Europe, where the outlook remains fragile," said OECD Chief Economist Carlo Padoan. "We may have stepped back from the edge of the cliff, but there's still no room for complacency," he said. In an interim forecast, the OECD projected U.S. gross domestic product to grow at an annualized rate of 2.9% in the current quarter and 2.8% in the second. The euro-zone's three largest economies -- Germany, France and Italy -- are set to shrink by 0.4% on average in the first quarter, followed by growth of 0.9% in the second. Japan is forecast to expand by an annualized 3.4% in the first quarter and 1.4% in the second.