Spain's economy expanded by 0.3 percent in the fourth quarter, although it shrank 1.2 percent for all of 2013, the National Statistics Institute, or INE, said Thursday.

The INE said Spain's exports grew last year but that gains in that sector were not enough to offset an annual drop in domestic consumption and investment.

The institute's figures were in line with those released last week by Spain's central bank.

Spain's government, meanwhile, had forecast a slightly bigger drop of 1.3 percent in Spain's 2013 gross domestic product.

In releasing its GDP figures last week, the Bank of Spain said the Iberian nation emerged from recession in the second half of 2013 due to an easing of tension in financial markets, the steady recovery of access to foreign financing, greater confidence in the country's economy and better job-market performance.

Spain's fourth-quarter growth was possible due, among other reasons, to a rise in domestic consumption and growth in business investment.

Economy Minister Luis de Guindos said Thursday the 0.3 percent growth in the fourth quarter was encouraging but that a difficult road still lies ahead.

Spain ended a streak of nine consecutive quarters of contraction in the third quarter of 2013, posting growth of 0.1 percent.

The country's economic woes began with the bursting of a real-estate bubble and were exacerbated by the 2008-2009 global recession and the subsequent sovereign debt crisis in Europe. EFE