FRANKFURT—Germany fell into recession in the first quarter, shrinking at its second-fastest pace since reunification as the coronavirus pandemic bit into everything from retailers to auto exporters, but Europe’s powerhouse economy is nonetheless expected to fare better than its neighbors over the balance of 2020.

Germany’s gross domestic product shrank by 8.6% in the first quarter on an annualized basis. Since fourth-quarter figures were revised to show a small contraction, Friday’s data indicates that Germany is now in recession.

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