The UK has exited its most severe recession since the 1930s as data this morning showed the economy had grown by a weaker-than-expected 0.1% in the last three months of 2009.

The economic growth brings to an end six consecutive quarters of contraction – the longest period since records began in 1955 – although experts had forecast growth of 0.4%.

The UK had been the last major economy in recession, with Germany and France – Europe’s two biggest economies – exiting last summer. The US and Japan also came out of recession last year.

There have been recent signs of recovery in the UK economy, with retail sales showing signs of growth, and unemployment falling for the first time in 18 months last week.

The Office for National Statistics figures showed that GDP fell by 4.8% in 2009.

The UK recession began in the April-to-June quarter of 2008.