Associated Press
FILE - In this Jan. 11, 2012 file photo containers are piling at the harbor in Duisburg, Germany. The German economy shrank by a larger-than-expected 0.6 percent in the final quarter in 2012, official figures showed Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013, in a clear sign that the European financial crisis took its toll on the continent's largest economy. The quarterly decline was primarily due to a drop in exports as demand weakened from other European nations, many of which are in recession, the Federal Statistical Office said. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, File)

WASHINGTON (MCT) — Europe's recession deepened at the end of last year as its economy shrank at an annual rate of 0.6 percent in the final three months, its sharpest contraction since the financial crisis.

The data for the eurozone released Thursday was worse than analysts had expected, reflecting steeper-than-expected contractions for three of the region's largest economies: Germany, France and Italy.

Germany's economy shrank at an annual rate of 0.6 percent in the period after expanding at a 0.2 percent rate in the previous quarter.

"The decline of the gross domestic product at the end of 2012 was mainly due to the comparably weak German foreign trade: In the final quarter of 2012, exports of goods went down much more than imports of goods," said Germany's statistical office.

Italy's economy contracted at an annual rate of 0.9 percent, while the French economy shrank at a rate of 0.3 percent, according to Eurostat, the European Union's statistical office.

The news from Europe comes after the U.S. recently reported its economy unexpectedly shrank 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter. Economists believe the U.S. contraction, the first since 2009, was an anomaly, driven in part by fears of the "fiscal cliff" and a drop in exports because of economic problems abroad.