Germany’s economy unexpectedly grew in the third quarter, official data showed Friday, but slowing growth in France and Spain added to fears that high inflation and an energy crisis will tip the region into recession. Europeans are bracing for a difficult winter as Russia crimps gas supplies in the wake of the Ukraine war, raising the spectre of energy shortages and worsening a cost-of-living squeeze for millions. Despite the gloomy outlook, Germany surprised analysts by posting growth of 0.3 percent quarter-on-quarter, driven mainly by consumer spending. France and Spain meanwhile reported 0.2 percent growth each from July to September, a sharp slowdown however from the 0.5 and 1.5 percent expansion they saw in the previous quarter. “The German economy managed to hold its ground despite… the continuing Covid-19 pandemic, supply chain interruptions, rising prices and the war in Ukraine,” federal statistics agency Destatis said about the preliminary data. Germany narrowly eked out 0.1 percent growth in the second quarter, and analyst had predicted that Europe’s biggest economy would shrink by 0.2 percent in the third quarter. But economists warned that Friday’s data merely provided a brief respite and that a downturn was coming, as Russia’s war in Ukraine sends food and especially energy costs surging. Consumer price growth in the 19-nation eurozone jumped to a record 9.9 percent in September, further depressing household income and raising costs for companies. “Today’s positive growth data is a welcome surprise. However, it does not mean that the German economy will be able to prevent a recession,” said ING economist Carsten Brzeski. “The recession is only delayed, not cancelled.” Germany, whose energy-hungry industries play a vital role in its export prowess, relied heavily on Russian gas before the war and it has been hit harder than other EU nations by Moscow’s cuts. The German government expects the economy to shrink by 0.4 percent in 2023. Adding to the country’s woes, Destatis on Friday said Germany’s annual inflation rate had climbed again to hit 10.4 percent in October, beating September’s high of 10 percent.