By DANICA KIRKA
LONDON (AP) â¿¿ Britain has given the slip to the Triple Dip.
The U.K. dodged a third recession after official figures showed the economy grew 0.3 percent in the first quarter compared with the previous three months â¿¿ a better-than-expected result that offered a bit of breathing space to a government facing criticism for its tough austerity policies.
The figure released Thursday by the Office for National Statistics was above analyst forecasts for 0.1 percent growth and allowed the country to avoid a so-called "Triple Dip" â¿¿ a third recession since the 2008 economic crisis.
The pound jumped higher in currency markets on expectations that the figures will dissuade the Bank of England from increasing its monetary stimulus program. The pound was up 1.1 percent against the dollar, at $1.5443.
"The likelihood of policy action by the Bank of England has fallen significantly with this better than expected outcome," said Chris Williamson, an analyst with Markit.
In its stimulus program, the Bank of England increases the amount of money in the U.K. financial system, in the hopes of spurring lending and growth.
Williamson noted, however, that Thursday's figures hardly indicate a strong rebound has begun.
"The fact that the economy has more or less stagnated over the past 18 months suggests that the return to growth will do little to alleviate pressure on the government and the Bank of England to find ways to ensure the latest upturn turns into a sustainable and robust recovery, and that the economy does not falter once again."
A recession is typically defined as two quarters of economic contraction. The economy shrank in the fourth quarter of 2012. The figures show the economy grew at an annualized rate of about 1.2 percent.
Observers had feared that news of another recession would scare consumers, feeding into a vicious cycle of cutting back on spending that has the economy flat-lining.