BERLIN (AP) — The German economy, Europe's largest, grew by 0.2 percent in the third quarter — slowing a little further as the continent struggles with its persistent debt crisis but performing slightly better than expected.

The figure for quarter-on-quarter growth released Thursday by the Federal Statistical Office compared with an expansion of 0.3 percent in the second quarter and 0.5 percent in the first three months of this year. It is a bit stronger than the 0.1 percent growth that was widely expected.

Germany enjoyed robust growth over the past two years, but the debt crisis that has pushed several European countries into recession has hit confidence and threatened to weigh on exports.

However, the statistical office said foreign demand made "positive contributions" to gross domestic product in the third quarter and private consumption also was higher.

Many economists believe the German economy may slacken further over the winter months before regaining momentum next year.

For now, the economy is proving to be "more resilient than expected," said Carsten Brzeski, an economist at ING in Brussels. "The strong labor market, wage increases but above all the good old friend exports are the main drivers of sustained resilience."

While the outlook for the next few months is less rosy, "the risk for the economy of falling off the cliff looks very limited," Brzeski added. He noted that other countries in the 17-nation eurozone account for only about a third of German exports, which should enable the country "to benefit quickly from any rebound of the global economy."

Third-quarter gross domestic product figures for the full eurozone are due later Thursday.